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CDC's Fall "Bridge Access Program" to Provide Free COVID-19 Vaccines, Treatment to Uninsured, Underinsured US Adults


The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday the impending launch of its "Bridge Access Program" this fall to provide COVID-19 vaccines to uninsured and underinsured Americans at no cost.

In the press statement the CDC stresses that the Bridge Access Program will be in place for a limited time.

The CDC estimates there are 25-30 million adults in the US without health insurance and many others whose insurance will not provide full coverage for the COVID vaccines when the products shift to the commercial market for procurement, distribution, and pricing, a transition expected later in the fall, according to the CDC.

“CDC is partnering with state and local public health agencies, health centers and pharmacies to ensure that all adults nationwide maintain access to lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines,” said CDC Director Mandy K Cohen, MD, MPH, in the announcement.

The program's launch will be overseen by a newly dedicated team in the CDC's Immunization Services Division. Under the plan, the CDC will purchase vaccines from current manufacturers; then, through existing state and local immunization programs the agency will allocate the vaccines as well as funding to implement the Bridge Access Program. The state and local entities will distribute the vaccines to their community-based partners, including local health departments and Health Resources and Services Administration-supported health centers, according to the press release.

The CDC said it is also working closely with select national pharmacy chains that have demonstrated the capacity to vaccinate millions of adults, now modifying existing contracts to ensure pharmacies are reimbursed for administration fees. CDC is equally invested in relationships with vaccine manufacturers whose "voluntary collaboration is critical to ensure an adequate supply of vaccines" for the access program.

CDC is equally invested in relationships with vaccine manufacturers whose "voluntary collaboration is critical to ensure an adequate supply of vaccines" for the access program.

The CDC's statment reiterates at the end the "Bridge" in the program is a temporary one and "is scheduled to end in December 2024." Looking toward a more sustainable solution, a "Vaccines for Adults" program was proposed in both the fiscal year 2023 and 2024 presidential budgets. The "permanent initiative" would resemble the current Vaccines for Children program, initiated 30 years ago in response to a widespread measles outbreak. A similar program for adults would provide coverage for all ACIP-recommended adult vaccinations for uninsured adults. The proposal is still pending.

Focusing on the upcoming 2023-2024 respiratory virus season, CDC Director Cohen said “Ultimately, we know that vaccines save money and lives. Vaccination is especially important as we head into fall and winter, a time when COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases are likely to circulate.”

Source: CDC to launch “Bridge Access Program” in fall 2023 to provide free COVID-19 vaccines and treatments to uninsured and underinsured adults. News release. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. July 13, 2023. Accessed July 14, 2023. https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2023/ 07/13/cdc-launch- bridge-access-program-fall-2023-provide-free-covid-19-vaccines-treatments-uninsured-underinsured-adults.html

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