Stalled COVID-19 Booster Rollout Reveals New Hurdles for Vaccine Equity in Cities

Blog post by Urban Health Collaborative
October 5, 2023

Urban Health Collaborative   (Philadelphia)

When the updated COVID-19 booster was made available last month, many of us lined up immediately to get the shot, in hopes of heading off the uptick in infection rates that began in the U.S. over the summer. But here in Philadelphia, some of us were told that we would have to pay out of pocket – up to $190 – because insurance companies hadn’t yet updated their billing codes to cover the boosters. Others were turned away at pharmacies not in their networks or had their appointments canceled due to shipping delays. Philadelphia wasn’t alone in this: People across the U.S. experienced similar complications in getting the new COVID-19 booster.

This shortage in vaccines led to the Philadelphia Department of Health to ask low-risk residents to delay getting boosted, so that people at higher risk of COVID-19 complications can be prioritized. But will that be enough to ensure that the residents with the highest need get vaccinated?