2023 COVID Vaccine Rollout Q&A
Why is it difficult for a child under two years of age, with health insurance, to get a COVID vaccine at this time?
A: During the national public health emergency, the COVID vaccine was made available to all through the federal government, regardless of insurance status and was administered by private doctor’s offices as well as at large public health vaccination clinics. With the end of the public health emergency, the current COVID vaccine is now commercialized which means it is no longer free of charge and has to be purchased by facilities and billed through health insurance.
Those with private health insurance, or Medicare/ Medicaid can go to any participating commercial pharmacy, like CVS or Walgreens to schedule an appointment online for the COVID vaccine, if you are three years old and older.
However, there is a general difficulty and delay in the nationwide rollout of the COVID vaccine for a variety of reasons: production, distribution and shipping delays. This has caused a limit on the amount of available vaccine for all ages. But it is especially difficult right now to get the COVID vaccine for those six months to two years of age. Here’s why:
1. While pharmacies are offering the COVID vaccine, pharmacies are not legally permitted to vaccinate children under three years of age.
2. The biggest issue is that private health insurance has not kept up with the vaccination rollout and are currently working on the reimbursement process for pediatricians so that they can provide the COVID vaccine for those under two years of age.
a. Until pediatricians can get reimbursed by private health insurance, they are unlikely to order the COVID vaccine due to the high cost of the COVID vaccine.
b. Even for those pediatricians who have put in an order, they are experiencing the same supply chain and distribution issues. Due to the limited supply, many pediatric practices are not accepting new patients to vaccinate.
What is the County, or my town doing now to get people vaccinated for COVID?
A: Currently, local governmental public health has received a limited supply of the COVID vaccine to vaccinate only those who are uninsured and underinsured. Diseases can spread quickly and have greater negative impacts on those who lack health care access. Disease prevention, especially among those who otherwise would not have access to a healthcare provider is a prerogative for public health.
With the commercialization of the COVID vaccine, the expectation is that the private healthcare provider is the appropriate person to administer the vaccine, as they accept health insurance and administer all other recommended vaccinations.
Why do I see other kids who are under three years of age getting the COVID vaccine at County or Local vaccination clinics?
A. Governmental public health agencies, federally qualified health centers and even some pediatric practices may participate in the Vaccine for Children (VFC) Program. Any childhood vaccines through the VFC program are allocated only for children who are uninsured/ underinsured, and again there is a limited supply through the VFC system. Local public health departments that offer childhood vaccines, cannot accept children with health insurance because they do not have the capacity to bill health insurance like a private healthcare provider and the main mission of public health is to be the safety net and provide basic medical services for those who are uninsured/underinsured.
Why doesn’t the government just buy the COVID vaccine?
A. The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) is allocating limited state funding to purchase COVID vaccine. They have put in an order for adult and pediatric vaccinations. Just like private providers, the government is also experiencing the same delays in receiving the vaccine. Furthermore, there is uncertainty of when this order will arrive, what quantity and type of vaccines will be included in each shipment and how to equitably distribute the vaccines across the state when they are received.
Will the County Health Departments be able to vaccinate children under three years of age, regardless of insurance, when they receive age appropriate COVID vaccines that were purchased by NJDOH?
A. Yes. Understanding that there is currently a lack of available pediatric COVID vaccination sites, NJDOH intends to vaccinate young children through the County Health Departments until pediatricians’ offices are able to procure their own supply. This is all dependent on the availability of COVID vaccines from NJDOH.
Where can I find more information on how to find a COVID vaccine provider/ clinic location?
A. Go to https://vaccines.gov for more information.
With the lack of availability of COVID vaccine for my young child, what is the best way to protect them?
A. Public health advises those family members and caregivers to get the COVID vaccine, as well as other vaccines that protect against respiratory infections like the flu vaccine and RSV vaccine for older adults. Mass vaccination protects those who are unable to get vaccinated, from getting sick. This is also called herd immunity. In addition, staying home when you are sick and covering your cough and sneeze and proper handwashing are the very basic common sense practices that we can all do to prevent the spread of diseases in the community.