WASHINGTON — The Biden administration plans to spend more than $1 billion on a new program to offer free coronavirus shots to uninsured Americans later this year after the vaccines move to the commercial market, administration officials said.
The program for the uninsured, which will be modeled partly on an existing childhood vaccination program, will include a first-of-its-kind partnership with pharmacy chains that will cover the administrative costs of giving the doses to patients. Pfizer and Moderna have pledged to offer the shots at no cost to those who lack insurance.
The administration’s move partly resolves a critical loophole in the nation’s coronavirus strategy ahead of a new vaccination campaign with reformulated shots that is likely to begin as soon as late summer. Federal officials have said that they no longer plan to mass-purchase doses for Americans as they have in prior coronavirus vaccination campaigns, allowing the vaccines to be sold commercially and ceding power to manufacturers to set their own prices.
In June, federal regulators are expected to choose a new formulation of the shots that will target versions of the virus they expect to circulate broadly later in the year. Those shots would most likely roll out around September, similar to the timing of last year’s booster campaign.
The administration is also planning to buy discounted doses for community health clinics and federal and state vaccination programs that traditionally deliver vaccines to the uninsured. The program will be called the Bridge Access Program for Covid-19 Vaccines and Treatment, according to an administration fact sheet obtained by The New York Times.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.