More kids can now get COVID vaccines at Vermont pharmacies
Pharmacies in Vermont are now allowed to give COVID-19 shots to kids ages 3 and older.
Prior to the announcement, kids under 5 could only get a COVID-19 vaccine at a doctor’s office, and many pharmacies couldn’t give shots to kids under 12.
That’s been a problem, because many provider practices haven’t had enough COVID-19 vaccines for their patients. As of this week, less than 7% of Vermonters under 18 have had the latest COVID-19 vaccine, which is a different formulation from the shots adults get.
Many doctor’s offices get their vaccines from a state immunization program, which means they don’t have to pay for the shots upfront. But the state program is only allocated a certain amount of vaccines from the Centers for Disease Control every two weeks.
“There’s more demand than supply for adults and kids both, and in particular, pediatric providers would like more Pfizer than we have,” said Patsy Kelso, the state epidemiologist with the Vermont Department of Health.
She added the most recent allocation has been “very similar” to prior weeks. She wasn’t able to provide details on how many overall COVID-19 vaccines the state received, but she said, for example, in the last two shipments from the CDC, the state received 1,320 doses of the six month to 4 year old Pfizer product both times.
Many pharmacies buy from wholesalers directly. That can be more expensive than the state’s program, but it doesn’t come with the same limitations on supply.
Now that Vermont Medicaid will cover the shots at pharmacies, it gives families more options. Kelso heard about one family with Medicaid coverage who couldn’t get a COVID-19 vaccine at their doctor’s office, and were advised to try a pharmacy.
“When they went to a pharmacy, they were told that the out-of-pocket costs for COVID vaccine was something like $192,” Kelso said. “So what this change by Vermont Medicaid does is say that child can now go to a pharmacy and have no out-of-pocket cost for COVID vaccine.”
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Lexi Krupp is a corps member with Report for America, a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and regions.