CDC director visits New Haven, addresses COVID booster delays

The nation’s top health official came to Connecticut Thursday, urging people to get the new COVID-19 booster.
But actually getting the updated vaccine is easier said than done – thanks to supply shortages, delivery delays and insurance issues.
NEW HAVEN VISIT
Dr. Mandy Cohen, a Yale School of Medicine graduate, just took over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July.
At Fair Haven Community Health Care, Cohen said now is the time to get boosted – especially after a late summer COVID spike.
“The two reasons to get vaccinated, even if you've had COVID before or you've been vaccinated is, one – the fact that your protection decreases over time. And second, this virus is changing,” she said.
“STARTUP PROBLEMS”
Gov. Ned Lamont heeded the call, getting his shot during Cohen’s visit. But not everyone has been so lucky.
“There have been some startup problems,” Lamont said. “I think those are behind us. Now is the time to make your appointment.”
Since the booster was approved last month, patients have struggled to get appointments, while others have had them canceled due to supply issues. Walgreens and CVS confirmed to the Associated Press on Sept. 21 that delivery delays to some stores across the country had led to dropped appointments.
“We are aware of isolated incidences at a small number of locations where appointments had to be rescheduled due to delays in supply,” a Walgreens spokesperson told AP, noting most stores “have supply to support existing patient appointments.”
“MANY, MANY, MANY PLAYERS”
So why all the problems?
For the first time, the private sector is in charge of the process. Previously, the federal government bought and distributed COVID vaccines nationwide.
“You know, we went from one player – the federal government – doing the purchasing and distribution, to many, many, many players,” said Cohen. “So even if half of those players were ready to go, that means half weren't.”
Connecticut has administered 46,000 doses of the updated vaccine, according to the state Department of Public Health. DPH Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani said the state is working closely with pediatricians to streamline the ordering process, but it may take several more weeks to get appointments back on track.
“Supply is improving,” she said.
INSURANCE ISSUES
Insurance carriers must cover the full price of a COVID vaccine at in-network providers, but some patients say their insurance refused to pay.
“If you got the shot and you had to pay anything for it, you should go back to your insurance company and get reimbursed,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut).
Cohen said many insurers failed to update their billing codes in time.
“We saw a lot of insurance companies that were ready to go, and a number that weren’t,” she said. “And I don't think they understood how the timing was all going to line up – and they were required to cover things right on Day One.”
FREE BOOSTER SHOTS
Even if you don't have insurance, or you have to travel out of network, you can still get the COVID booster for free.
All patients have to do is show up. Your provider will be reimbursed under the CDC’s Bridge Access Program (https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/bridge/index.html).
The program runs through the end of 2024.