Coronavirus vaccine will be made free for Americans who can’t afford it, U.S. officials say

A nurse wears personal protective equipment (PPE) as she cares for a coronavirus COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit (I.C.U.) at Regional Medical Center on May 21, 2020 in San Jose, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

The coronavirus vaccine will be provided free of charge to Americans who can’t afford it, the Trump administration announced Tuesday.

Any American who is “vulnerable, who cannot afford the vaccine and desires the vaccine, we will provide it for free,” a senior administration official told reporters during a press briefing Tuesday morning. 

The administration is also working with insurers, the official said. Some commercial insurers have expressed “eagerness” to cover the vaccine without a co-pay, the official said, adding most are already covering coronavirus-related services.

“We will work with them to get the vaccines distributed through the typical channels that they use” such as retail pharmacies and physician offices, the official said. “Our role in the federal government is to ensure anyone who is vulnerable, who can not afford it and desires it gets it.”

Public health experts have urged U.S. leaders to make a coronavirus vaccine available to everyone, not just those who can afford it.

The coronavirus has infected more than 2.1 million Americans and killed at least 116,127 since the first reported U.S. case less than five months ago, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. U.S. officials and scientists are hopeful a vaccine to prevent Covid-19 will be ready in the first half of 2021. 

U.S. health officials and researchers have been fast-tracking work on vaccine development, aiming to produce 300 million doses of a potential vaccine by January. The official said the Trump administration’s goal is to have enough vaccines to protect “as much life as possible” by the height of the flu season. 

Because of the pandemic, U.S. officials are investing in multiple stages of research even though doing so could be for naught if the vaccine ends up not being effective or safe. The Trump administration has narrowed its list of promising experimental vaccines to about seven from 14, the official said. The official did not say which ones have started vaccine production.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump said that the U.S. had already produced 2 million coronavirus vaccine doses that are “ready to go” once scientists figure out whether it is safe and effective.

Scientists are still learning about key aspects of the virus, including how immune systems respond once a person is exposed. The answers, they say, may have important implications for vaccine development, including how quickly it can be deployed to the public.

The fastest-ever vaccine development, for mumps, took more than four years and was licensed in 1967.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, said he worries about the “durability” of a potential vaccine, saying there’s a chance it may not provide long-term immunity.

If Covid-19 acts like other coronaviruses, “it likely isn’t going to be a long duration of immunity,” Fauci said during an interview on June 2 with JAMA Editor Howard Bauchner.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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