Health Watch: When could Fairbanks expect a COVID-19 Vaccine?

Published: Nov. 25, 2020 at 4:57 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - With the announcement of three potential vaccines for COVID-19, when could Fairbanks see the vaccine arrive, when can residents receive a vaccine, and how much could it cost?

As of right now, Fairbanks could expect to receive the first shipment of vaccine sometime in mid-December. The first to receive a vaccine will be essential workers and high risk individuals. “Those are people who work in frontline healthcare -- so they might be right there in the ER when you come in, [or] it could be people that transport you in an ambulance if you’re not well. People that are at high risk and get very ill from COVID infection are also moving to the top of the list. That includes people with underlying medical conditions or folks that are 65 and older,” said Elizabeth Burton, Regional Nurse Manager for Public Health Nursing.

It is possible that people outside of this high risk group could be administered a vaccine as early as the end of first quarter 2021, but with new information coming in every day, that is still up in the air.

“I don’t like to say anything firm because as I mentioned things are changing so quickly right now. But I do expect that we’ll see a small amount of the COVID vaccine arrive in Alaska, including Fairbanks, sometime by the middle of December. We already talked about a prioritization for people that would get those first doses. We expect that we’ll have weekly shipments after that, and I would say that probably by the end of first quarter in 2021, we would have a vaccine that would be widely available for our community,” said Burton.

But how much will it cost? In general, health care providers will not be allowed to charge patients for the cost of administering the vaccine, but that is separate from the supplies used. While there is no concrete price as of yet, there are resources to make sure everyone can receive a vaccine.

“If the person has insurance, then the person administering the vaccine can bill an insurer. But if the insurance doesn’t pay or the full amount isn’t paid, that would still not be something that an individual who received a vaccine would be expected to pay. And for folks who do not have health insurance, and they are still billed, we are actively looking at offsetting a charge like that from the Health Resources and Service Administration or PRSA. We’re looking to them to cover the cost of administration for those uninsured folk. So we’re doing everything we can to make sure there are no costs to receive the vaccine,” said Burton.

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