Updated COVID-19 vaccines that protect against the most common circulating strains of the virus are now available at some parish health units (PHUs) throughout Louisiana, which adds to the supply already available at pharmacies and other locations. State health officials urge residents to take advantage of the best protection against the COVID-19 virus by getting the updated vaccines.
PHUs are a vital resource for uninsured and underinsured residents to access the latest COVID-19 vaccines with ease and affordability. As part of the Bridge Access Program, local PHUs and participating Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) will be offering free COVID-19 vaccines to adults without health insurance or with health plans that do not cover the vaccine.
Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved two new vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna that target the XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant of the COVID-19 virus.
The updated vaccines are recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older and are expected to provide increased protection against severe disease and death that may result from infection with the COVID-19 virus.
"Getting an updated COVID-19 vaccination is a great way to boost one’s protection against the virus. The updated vaccine is recommended for everyone ages 6 months of age and older. Elderly individuals and those with significant underlying health conditions are at the highest risk of serious complications should they become infected with COVID-19 and stand to benefit the greatest from receiving the updated vaccine. I plan to get mine at the same time as I receive this year’s flu shot and I encourage everyone to do the same," said State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter.
With the U.S. government no longer purchasing COVID-19 vaccines through its CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program, the updated COVID-19 vaccines are now only available in the commercial marketplace. With these changes, there is now a cost associated with getting vaccinated. However, most insurance providers, the new Bridge Access Program and the existing Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program should cover the cost of COVID-19 vaccines for everyone.
Cost and coverage
Most Louisiana residents can still receive a COVID-19 vaccine at no out-of-pocket cost.
People with insurance coverage: Most health insurance plans (private, Medicare and Medicaid) will cover COVID-19 vaccines at no cost. Individuals with insurance can find vaccination sites, including many retail pharmacies, offering updated COVID-19 shots at vaccines.gov.
People who are uninsured and underinsured:
- PHUs: Some local PHUs and participating FQHCs will offer free COVID-19 vaccines to adults who qualify for the Bridge Access Program. People should call their nearest PHU to check availability. More PHUs will offer the shots as vaccine availability increases.
- Flu shots are available at most PHUs. Call your local PHU in advance to check if flu vaccines are available.
- Pharmacies: Many retail pharmacies throughout the state, including national Bridge Access Program partners CVS and Walgreens, will also offer free updated COVID-19 vaccinations to uninsured and underinsured adults.
- If you are eligible, go to vaccines.gov. After entering your zip code, click or tap on the “Search for COVID-19 Vaccines” button. On the next page, select “Bridge Access Program Participant” to see participating pharmacies.
- Vaccines for Children: Children who are eligible for the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program may also receive the vaccine at no cost from VFC-enrolled providers. Find VFC sites offering the updated COVID-19 vaccines at vaccines.gov.
Who should get the updated vaccine?
- Individuals 5 years of age and older, regardless of previous vaccination, are eligible to receive a single dose of an updated mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least two months following the last dose of any COVID-19 vaccine.
- Individuals 6 months through 4 years of age who have previously received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine are eligible to receive one or two doses of an updated mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. The timing and number of doses to administer depends on the previous COVID-19 vaccine received.
- Unvaccinated individuals 6 months through 4 years of age are eligible to receive three doses of the updated authorized Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or two doses of the updated authorized Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.