Covid Shot To Be Free If You Can’t Afford It, Official Says

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. government will provide vaccines against coronavirus infections for free to vulnerable Americans who want one and can’t afford it, according to a senior administration official.

The Trump administration has been collaborating with the pharmaceutical industry to accelerate the development of immunizations against Covid-19 with a goal of having a shot available by January 2021, according to two officials who spoke on background during a media briefing Tuesday.

While success isn’t guaranteed, the officials said that every step has been taken to maximize the probability that research will be completed and, if a vaccine is found, enough supplies will be available to start immunizing Americans.

The government has also been in discussions with commercial health insurers about how any new immunizations would be covered, they said. Insurers won’t require members to cover co-pay costs for the vaccines, just as most other coronavirus services are available without cost-sharing, the officials said.

Costs have become a growing issue in recent days with some Covid patients receiving astronomical medical bills after being released from the hospital. The government’s focus will be coverage for any vulnerable Americans, as well as those serving in critical sectors such as national defense and essential services, the officials said.

The Department of Defense is acquiring rights and licensing agreements so that it can ramp up manufacturing on its own, allowing the companies developing the immunizations to run their own operations around the world. The goal is to ensure there’s enough first to cover all Americans who need the vaccine. Then the government would help vaccinate others around the world with any surplus, they said.

The issue of prioritizing certain countries became a global concern after Sanofi Chief Executive Officer Paul Hudson said the U.S. may get the drugmaker’s experimental vaccine first because it contributed to the cost of developing it, a suggestion that sparked outrage in France.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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