Free COVID shots ending? Why you should get vaccinated/boosted now

Time is running out for free COVID-19 vaccines. Health officials are warning the federal government is expected to stop COVID funding as early as January 2023. That means your next shot could come at a cost.

This could have the biggest impact on some of the most vulnerable people.

Access to vaccines, boosters and therapeutics could be more challenging in the new year. 

Hayat Pharmacy near the Milwaukee airport has stayed very busy throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Hashim Zaibak has helped to administer more than 100,000 COVID vaccines, seeing about 60 to 100 people each day from all walks of life.

"We’re still getting people, and we're seeing a lot of first-timers," said Zaibak.

COVID-19 vaccine

Zaibak and other health care providers worry that could soon change.

"When January hits, it’s going to be a much more confusing landscape," said Dr. Ben Weston, chief Milwaukee County health policy advisor.

Dr. Weston said federal funds that provide free COVID-19 vaccines could dry up as early as Jan. 1, 2023. That means any shot, booster or therapeutic could come with a cost.

"We really need federal funding to keep the vaccination campaign, keep our immunity high and keep therapeutics widely and universally available," said Dr. Weston.

Those uninsured could soon be paying out of pocket. Others could be charged a copay.

"The last thing we need is an additional barrier, a financial barrier, especially among our more vulnerable populations that have lower vaccination rates," said Dr. Weston.

"Whether it’s $20, $40 or $100, that can be a lot of money," said Zaibak.

While the landscape could become more confusing, the message from health officials is clear.

"If you’re uninsured, and you’re not vaccinated, please consider getting vaccinated as quickly as possible," said Zaibak.

Dr. Weston said the county is looking into alternative funding, but it pales in comparison to those federal dollars.

Zaibak said the expected costs will lead him to reduce his supply of the vaccine.

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