The Public Health Emergency is Ending, but COVID Remains a Threat

by Vaccinate Your Family

The Public Health Emergency (PHE) declaration is ending on May 11, but COVID remains a threat. The PHE was first declared in 2020 in response to the spread of COVID-19 to allow for special resources to be used to respond to the new virus. The PHE ending does not mean that the COVID-19 virus is gone – COVID continues to circulate, and vaccines are as important as ever in keeping yourself and your family safe. In fact, over 1,000 people in the U.S. continue to lose their lives to COVID each week. 

There are some important things to know about the end of the PHE:  

  • An estimated 10 to 15 million people could lose Medicaid coverage. As part of the PHE ending, states are “unwinding” Medicaid coverage. The PHE made it so that no one lost Medicaid coverage during the emergency, but now that it’s over, many who are no longer eligible could lose coverage, so we’re likely to see an increase in the number of people who are uninsured. This is a concern for access to all vaccines – not just COVID. 
  • COVID vaccines are expected to continue to be available for free until the “commercialization” of COVID vaccines in fall 2023, when they will become available in the same ways as other recommended vaccines through the insurance market. However, we do not know exactly how long the supply of free vaccines for adults will last before commercialization. We also do not know for how long the expanded access to vaccines – through pharmacists, pop-up clinics, and other programs – will last. 
  • We know that the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program will continue to cover COVID-19 vaccines at no cost to children through age 18, and that children and adults with insurance (private or through Medicaid or Medicare) should have no-cost access to COVID vaccines, including after commercialization. After commercialization of the COVID vaccines in the fall, we are most concerned about the cost of COVID vaccines for uninsured adults. There will be an HHS “Bridge Program” designed to make sure uninsured adults still have access to free vaccines at pharmacies and through public health systems, but a lot of uncertainty remains.

Because of the uncertainties that lie ahead with the Public Health Emergency ending, we encourage anyone who needs a COVID vaccine or booster to seek one out soon.

Vaccinate Your Family is responding by advocating for increased vaccine access through full funding of Section 317, which supports state immunization programs. Write to your legislators here. 

Our partners at the National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants and Migrants (NRC-RIM) have developed toolkit materials in nearly 20 languages to help communities understand the impacts of the PHE end. Find useful resources here.

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