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COVID Booster shots, will they cost you money with the end of the PHE?

Bivalent booster shot administered.
Christian Emmer/emmer.com.ar
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Bivalent booster shot administered.

The second COVID-19 bivalent booster shot is now available to certain people, including those over 65 and people who are immune-compromised.

But The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency is set to expire on May 11th, which means the federal government will transition out of certain policies, such as free COVID tests.

Will boosters cost me money?

University of Florida epidemiologist Cindy Prins says the end of the health emergency will not affect the free accessibility of the 2nd bivalent booster. That’s because the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommended the vaccine beyond May 11th.

“The expectation is that there's still coverage for vaccines through that point. And then most insurance companies would pay for the vaccine after that point, because of the ASAP recommendation,” Prins said. “The federal government does not charge for vaccines, and there's still some supply (in its inventory), that's going to be free as well, just because it's a federally purchased vaccine.”

The Department of Health & Human Servicesconfirms this and also said that the PHE expiration would not affect access to certain treatments, such as Paxlovid and Lagevrio.

However, Prins also said there is an expectation that consumers would pay out of pocket for vaccines as they become more commercialized in the future.

Who can get it? And what are the side effects?

Currently, those who are 65 years of age and older may receive the booster four months after their last shot. Those who are immune-compromised or have other underlying issues may also receive the 2nd bivalent booster two months after their first shot.

Those receiving the shot shouldn't expect any new side effects, as the boosters appear to behave the same as previous doses.

"(People) have had the original vaccine, a booster, and probably a valence booster and there are folks probably moving on to dose number five. You don't expect anything different at this point," Prins said.

About 23% of adults said they have received the September bivalent booster, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation,and 25% said they were boosted but did not receive the bivalent shot.

KFF also found that about half of adults said they’re likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine annually if one was offered, like a flu shot. The report also showed that 1 in 4 adults were not vaccinated.

What's the COVID forecast?

State datashow that new positivity COVID-19 cases are at about 8% for Florida as well as Orange County. The World Health Organization's recommended level is 5% or lower. Prins expects that number to rise during the summer season following the pattern of the last few years.

"We've seen in the past that going into summertime definitely in Florida we've had an uptick in COVID-19 cases and that's happened in other parts of the US as well," she said. "Let's make sure that our vulnerable populations get covered for the summertime."

According to Helix, a surveillance company working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on tracking COVID variants, a new omicron subvariant is spreading in Florida: arcturus. The new subvariant makes up about 5% of new cases in Florida.

Originally from South Florida, Joe Mario came to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida where he graduated with degrees in Radio & Television Production, Film, and Psychology. He worked several beats and covered multimedia at The Villages Daily Sun but returned to the City Beautiful as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel where he covered crime, hurricanes, and viral news. Joe Mario has too many interests and not enough time but tries to focus on his love for strange stories in comic books and horror movies. When he's not writing he loves to run in his spare time.
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