As the pandemic surges again in autumn, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention launched the Bridge Access Program, also referred to as Vaccines for Adults (VFA), in September 2023. This program provides free coverage for the 25 to 30 million uninsured and underinsured American adults who would otherwise lose access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines. This article will introduce you to how to get a free COVID-19 shot through the program. This program will be available until December 31, 2024.
As a newsroom devoted to covering immigrant communities, Documented has compiled a comprehensive guide for immigrant New Yorkers. This article is part of the guide.
According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, in NYC, vaccines under this program are provided for those age 19 and older who are uninsured or underinsured, meaning that the patient’s insurance does not cover the full cost of the vaccine. If you are 19 and older and are covered by Medicaid or Medicare, then you are not eligible.
Providers should not charge you for the fees of VFA vaccines.
The coverage of the Bridge Access Program may expand to include other vaccines in the future, but is currently limited to the COVID-19 vaccine only.
How to enroll as a patient?
The program aims to remove barriers to COVID-19 vaccines for patients, so you do not need to enroll. Providers will ask you if you have health insurance to determine your eligibility.
How to enroll as a provider?
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has listed the steps to take for you to enroll in the program.
- Register or log on to the Citywide Immunization Registry (CIR) website with your email address.
- If you are affiliated with multiple facilities, all of them should be displayed on your dashboard. You can add facilities by selecting the Facility Lookup tab if your dashboard does not show facilities or only some of your facilities are displayed.
- Select the facility for which you would like to enroll in VFA. If you are enrolling multiple facilities in the VFA program, you will need to complete the application for each of them individually.
- Select the VFA tab to review and submit information about your vaccine shipping address, hours, contacts, storage, and Chief Medical Officer and Chief Executive Officer.
- Sign the VFA provider agreement (one agreement per facility).
The NYC DOH has also provided detailed step-by-step information with screenshots about registering and updating facility and contact information.
Where to get a free COVID-19 vaccine
You can get free COVID-19 vaccines from healthcare providers, federally supported health centers and pharmacies participating in the Bridge Access Program, which can be found at https://www.vaccines.gov/. Providers should update their vaccine availability on the website.
- Local healthcare providers: State and local health departments have been working with local healthcare providers to provide free coverage.
- Local health centers: Health Resources & Services Administration-supported health centers provide free vaccines.
- Pharmacies: Pharmacies including CVS, Walgreens and eTrueNorth which subcontracts with smaller pharmacies also offer free vaccines.
If I also have a child who is uninsured or underinsured, what can I do?
According to the NYC DOH, your child is eligible for the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program if he or she falls under any of the following:
- American Indian or Alaska Native
- Enrolled in Child Health Plus B (CHPlus B)
There are over 44,000 doctors at almost 40,000 sites enrolled in the VFC Program nationwide. You can find more information about the NYC VFC coordinator on the DOH website. Other places that provide vaccinations include Public Health Clinic, Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) and Rural Health Clinic (RHC).
Updated 2023-2024 Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccines have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration. Everyone who is 6 months and older should receive an updated vaccine.