Moderna COVID Vaccines Will Be Free in 2023

An illustration of a syringe on a blue background with a $ in shadow behind it.


Key Takeaways

  • COVID-19 vaccines and boosters have been free because of federal funding. However, if that funding stops, people may have to pay out of pocket for the shots.
  • Pfizer reportedly plans to price their COVID-19 vaccines at $110 to $130 per dose.
  • Moderna released similar pricing, but has rolled it back in a commitment to keep their vaccines free.

Moderna is pledging to keep its COVID-19 vaccines free to everyone in the U.S. even after the COVID Public Health Emergency ends in May, the company announced on February 15.

"As the public health emergency ends, the United States government will no longer be providing vaccines at no cost. Moderna remains committed to ensuring that people in the United States will have access to our COVID-19 vaccines regardless of ability to pay," the statement reads.

The move is a reversal of earlier plans to charge $110-$130 per dose, as reported by the Wall Street Journal in January.

The initial planned out-of-pocket price is in the same range as the Pfizer COVID vaccine prices announced in October.

Whether or not Americans will actually have to pay these prices for other vaccines depends on several factors, including whether or not a person has health insurance.

Here’s what to expect if you have to start paying to get COVID vaccines.

Why Do We Ever Have to Pay For Vaccines?

Contracts between the federal government and vaccine manufacturers supported the production and delivery of COVID vaccines and allowed the public to receive them at no cost. However, that will change on May 11, when the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration comes to an end.

The sticker price for other vaccines is not necessarily cheap if you pay out of pocket, either. For example, getting a quadrivalent flu shot at CVS can cost $95, while a regular flu shot is $50. A shingles vaccine is $179, and pneumonia vaccines are between $141 and $226. For babies and kids, the MMR is $135 per dose and DTaP is $105 per dose.

Will Insurance Cover COVID Vaccines?

If you have health insurance, you’re likely to be able to get both a Moderna and Pfizer COVID vaccine for free even after federal funding stops.

"Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be available at no cost for insured people whether they receive them at their doctors’ offices or local pharmacies," Moderna's statement says.

Amanda Honeycutt, PhD, the director of the Health Economics Program at RTI International, told Verywell that when the public health emergency declaration expires, public and private health insurers will likely provide coverage for COVID, “just as they currently cover many other preventive vaccines for children and adults, including [the] influenza vaccine.”

Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries can access COVID vaccines and boosters at no cost. People with private health insurance will likely be able to access free COVID shots if given by in-network providers.

Will Uninsured Americans Still Get Free COVID Shots?

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends COVID vaccines for people aged 6 months and older. Children without health insurance have access to free COVID vaccines if their providers are enrolled in the federally funded Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.

Through the program, any child who is one of the following is eligible to receive a free shot:

  • Medicaid-eligible
  • Uninsured
  • Underinsured
  • American Indian or Alaska Native

Since the Section 317 Immunization Program provides ACIP-recommended vaccines for free, uninsured adults may still be able to get their COVID shots at no cost. However, since the funding is limited, the program may have a restricted supply of COVID vaccines to give without help from the manufacturers.

"For uninsured or underinsured people, Moderna’s patient assistance program will provide COVID-19 vaccines at no cost," Moderna confirmed.

If federal funding ends, there’s no guarantee that uninsured adults will still be able to get the Pfizer COVID shot for free. If not, they will be left to pay for the cost out-of-pocket.

“People without health insurance will be thrust back into the usual, inequitable, and sometimes impossible scenario of having to find a place to be vaccinated at no or minimal cost,” Jewel Mullen, MD, MPH, associate dean for Health Equity at the Dell Medical School in the University of Texas at Austin, told Verywell.

Vaccine Demand Will Get Harder to Predict

Manufacturers need to determine how many vaccines they’ll produce to meet the needs of the population, but Honeycutt said vaccine demand will be harder to predict without the government as a guaranteed purchaser.

“Because vaccines that companies are unable to sell must be thrown out after their expiration date, manufacturers will obviously want to minimize their losses and maximize profits, while accounting for this uncertainty in demand,” said Honeycutt.

Some manufacturers may leave the market if there are declines in demand or climbing production costs. For example, Honeycutt said that if COVID vaccines are only recommended for certain groups of people who are at a higher risk for severe disease, then significantly fewer doses might be needed.

Cost May Make Vaccination Disparities Worse

The price of COVID shots is a key factor that can influence vaccine uptake, which is why Moderna's initiate to keep them free matters. If the vaccine is covered by insurance for only some of the population, Honeycutt said that the uptake among other groups is likely to decline considerably. Vaccine equity is likely to be affected, too. 

“Despite the availability of COVID-19 vaccines at free clinics in communities across the United States, vaccination rates for individuals in households with incomes below the federal poverty line were significantly lower than rates among individuals in higher-income households,” said Honeycutt. “Additionally, vaccination rates for uninsured individuals lagged considerably behind those of the insured.”

Although the vaccine is free of charge regardless of health insurance status, a 2021 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that unvaccinated adults are more likely to be uninsured compared to vaccinated individuals.

Honeycutt said that disparities like these could get worse if free vaccines and free vaccine administration are no longer available and offered in a wide range of communities and settings.

Mullen added that vaccine uptake is already faltering in the country, and people who aren’t vaccinated are at a higher risk for COVID-related severe disease and death.

“We know that people with limited resources are known to have to forego medical care, necessary medications, and vaccines due to cost,” said Mullen. “Not being vaccinated—or boosted—sets those people up for experiencing ongoing inequities.”

What This Means For You

Free Moderna COVID vaccines are here to stay. Once the federal funding for COVID-19 vaccines stops, people who have health insurance or who qualify for certain programs might still be able to get no-cost vaccines from Pfizer and Novavax, too. However, people who do not have health insurance could have to pay $110 to $130 per dose.

To avoid having to pay, try to get and stay up to date with your COVID vaccinations and booster shots while the government still covers the cost.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Department of Health & Human Services. Renewal of determination that a public health emergency exists.

  2. Kaiser Family Foundation. Commercialization of COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and tests: implications for access and coverage.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ACIP immunization schedule vote.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About VFC.

  5. Kaiser Family Foundation. KFF COVID-19 vaccine monitor: profile of the unvaccinated.

By Carla Delgado
Carla M. Delgado is a health and culture writer based in the Philippines.