Coronavirus Vaccine Will Be Free In The U.S., Federal Health Officials Announce

Federal health officials announced a plan on Wednesday to distribute a coronavirus vaccine — if/when one is developed and approved for deployment — free of charge to every American who wants one, The Associated Press reported.

A "playbook" released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines how a campaign of mass vaccination will be carried out gradually, beginning in January 2021 or even perhaps before the end of this year, pending the eventual approval of one or more of the candidates currently being tested.

As the guidelines make clear, the process will be complicated and will involve the cooperation of the manufacturer, the U.S. military, state and local health officials, multiple federal agencies, and the country's information technology apparatus.

The Deployment Will Be A 'Marathon, Not A Sprint'

Rolling out the vaccine will be a process that will start small. At first, there may be a limited supply of vaccines, meaning that not everyone who wants one will get the chance. Instead, it will be handed out first to those who need it most — a group that includes health care workers, first responders, and people in vulnerable groups.

Only in the second and third phases of the distribution will the vaccine be made available to the general public.

a patient is vaccinated
Getty Images | Joe Raedle

It Will Be Free

Americans who want the immunization will not have to pay for it.

Congress has approved billions of dollars of funding to pay for the vaccine for people receiving federal health benefits, such as Medicare. Similarly, uninsured people will be able to get the treatment free of charge, and those with private insurance will not be charged, either.

The Deployment Will Require Coordination With Multiple Agencies

From the highest levels of the federal government on down to local health authorities, multiple agencies will have to work with one another to see to it that the medicine is distributed properly, stored according to safety standards, and given when appropriate.

Similarly, the distribution will require various agencies to use information technology to keep track of who has been given the medicine and when. Those databases will have to be linked with each other.

Federal Officials Are Hopeful

In a statement, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that he wants Americans to be confident in the process, once a vaccine is approved and the distribution begins.

"We are working closely with our state and local public health partners... to ensure that Americans can receive the vaccine as soon as possible and vaccinate with confidence," he said.