After the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners indicated last week that they intended to approve new fees for COVID-19 vaccines administered by the health department, Dr. Jennifer Green, director of the department, said Wednesday that residents still won’t have to pay for their shots.
“If you come to the health department, there is going to be no cost to you for a flu or COVID vaccine,” Green said.
The board voted unanimously Nov. 9 to move the health department’s proposed fee schedule to the consent agenda for its next regular meeting on Monday. According to a memorandum from Green to the commissioners, that schedule would include a $40 administration fee for COVID-19 vaccines and a $150 fee for the vaccine itself.
Green said Wednesday that those fees are only created to allow the department to bill health insurance companies.
“If you come in and you are a child or an adult and you have health insurance, we will bill that health insurance,” she said. “But in order to bill the health insurance, we have to set and establish a fee… Previously, we didn’t have a fee established because it didn’t cost anybody anything.”
COVID-19 vaccines were free during the public health emergency, Green said, but with the emergency over, health departments now must purchase vaccines through the commercial market instead of receiving them from the federal government.
“We need to either get them from the state — the state helps us purchase them — or we buy them from Moderna or Pfizer,” Green said.
Those without insurance can still get the vaccine for free because of two different federally-funded programs, Green said.
Vaccines for Children is a federal program that covers the cost of vaccines for those 18 and under, while the Bridge Access Program covers the cost of COVID-19 vaccines for uninsured adults. Both programs are operated by the CDC, and the Bridge Access Program is new this year, Green said.
Regardless of age or insurance status, Green said that all Cumberland County residents are encouraged to go to the department for their COVID-19 vaccines.
“If people are concerned about the cost of this vaccine or they’re not sure if their insurance covers it or they’re uninsured, their best bet is to come to the Health Department because we’ll make sure that there’s no charge to them for those vaccines,” she said. “No appointment needed.”
Got a tip for a follow-up? Government watchdog reporter Lexi Solomon can be reached at ABSolomon@gannett.com or 910-481-8526.
This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Cumberland County Health Department implements fees for COVID vaccine