Demand for coronavirus vaccines has declined overall, but interest has increased in the weeks since the Centers for Disease Control recommended a new shot targeting the latest Omicron subvariant.
Some pediatricians feel pressured by demands from families and drag on reimbursement from insurance companies, and practices are weighing the financial burden against providing immunizations, a cornerstone of public health. They report that they are being forced to call the police.
“Our patients really trust us to deliver these vaccines in a timely and efficient manner,” said Jenna Vallejo, chief operating officer at Potomac Children’s, a large clinic in Rockville, Maryland. So it’s unfortunate and frustrating.”
The only option her clinic’s patients have is to pay for the vaccine at a sister company, a travel clinic that charges $150 per dose, but paying out-of-pocket for preventive vaccines is ideal for everyone. Vallejo says that’s not the case. “It’s crazy. But that’s the position we’re all in. And nothing like this has ever happened before,” she said.
under federal law, coronavirus vaccines must be covered by public and private insurance companies.Federal Bridge Access Program Offers Vaccines for uninsured or underinsured adults. Almost half of adults say they plan to get a coronavirus vaccine, but most parents are less enthusiastic about getting their children vaccinated, according to a survey report. KFF survey It was released on Wednesday.
The waiting game comes as public health experts warn of a rise in cases due to cold weather, a back-to-school outbreak and a government shutdown looming. Local health care workers fear that if federal agencies reduce operations, it will become more difficult for patients who rely on government assistance to access it, and some patients may also lose Medicaid coverage. ing.
“When it rains, it pours,” said Jessica Wilson, chief strategy officer for CCI Health Services. CCI Health Services is a federally qualified medical center serving approximately 35,000 medical patients and an additional 35,000 WIC participants in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.
Kaylee Bees, 31, of Rockville, recently considered spending her own money at a travel clinic to vaccinate her infant daughter, but then ran into a new obstacle. Her hospital has a different brand of vaccine in stock than the one she was previously using, and her guidance is to use the same one, so the vaccine brand for children under 5 is Only Moderna.
Beans, who has worked in public health for about 10 years and knows how to navigate the medical system, said she has relied on searching Facebook and X in homemade Google Sheets.
“A lot of it is just scrolling,” she said. “It’s really hit and miss. People shouldn’t be begging for vaccines on social media.”
The transition to commercial use of the vaccine means state and local health departments will continue to distribute some vaccines through federally funded vaccines. pediatric vaccines For example, the program is no longer a widely relied upon source of vaccines.
Access was once a top priority for the health department, which set up pop-up clinics, deployed mobile vans and even made house calls to get vaccines to those who needed it most.
But with the arrival of vaccines to prevent serious illness, the public health emergency has ended and health officials have begun to refocus their attention on concerns that had been sidelined at the height of the pandemic. In the spring, the district closed eight coronavirus centers that were widely used during evening and weekend hours as one-stop shops for vaccines, tests and masks.
A spokesperson for the D.C. Department of Health did not respond to a message seeking comment on its current strategy regarding the new vaccine. Public health officials in Maryland and Virginia say the number of infections rose steadily in late July and early August, began to decline last month, but has increased as the weather gets colder and people spend more time indoors. He said he expected that.
That’s cold comfort for Jessica Gehrke, a mother of five from Clifton in Fairfax County. She was unable to find appointments for her older children, ages 8 to 15, who had previously been vaccinated within the first week of life. Age group targeted for shots. Her biggest concern is her 8-month-old son, who received two of the Pfizer three-dose series before clinicians were instructed to administer only the new vaccine, but his pediatrician doesn’t have that vaccine.
“Everyone is worried, especially babies, who don’t have immunity,” Gehrke said.
Mohammad Jarvandi, a longtime pediatrician who has opened a new practice in Fairfax, said he will be at 8 p.m. to vaccinate children ages 6 months to 12 years, who are not his regular patients. That’s why I work until now. He said that within hours of being placed on the CDC’s list of free vaccine providers, his office began receiving calls from all over Virginia and as far away as New York and New Jersey.
“As pediatricians, we felt we couldn’t send our little babies somewhere where there was no place for them to get vaccines. Vaccines are very important to us as pediatricians, so we vaccinate them. I decided to go ahead and just hope for the best,” Dr. Jarvandi said.
He assured Pfizer that supply is strong, that the vaccine has a 10-week shelf life, that most pharmacies will not vaccinate children under 3, and that insurance will ultimately It is assumed that the company will organize the coverage and provide compensation.
Pediatrician Dan Finkelstein said at Capitol Medical Group, a large practice in Chevy Chase, Md., cases are rising and most people have long since been vaccinated. Recognizing that time has passed, he said he is making the coronavirus vaccine available to existing patients by appointment.
“We’re just blindly ordering because we know patients want the vaccine,” he said. At the clinic’s first Saturday drive-up vaccine clinic held each fall, 800 people received the flu shot, and about half also chose to get the coronavirus shot, he said.
There is uncertainty with the shots, which cost between $40 and $110, and patients worry about receiving a bill from the clinic, which feeds back into doctors and nurses, he said.
“Things like this give insurance companies a bad name in the public eye because it really frustrates everyone. It doesn’t have to be that way,” Finkelstein said.
Parents who can’t find vaccines for their children find themselves anxious about what the new school year will look like as protocols around mask-wearing and reporting illnesses are eliminated.
Sapna Pandya, a social justice consultant who lives in Mount Pleasant, sent her 5-year-old daughter to kindergarten wearing a mask on the first day after the spike in cases reignited old fears. Dina Passman, a mother of 9-year-old twins who also lives in Columbia Heights, said she wants clearer guidance and partnerships about vaccine access from her school district.
“You don’t have to imagine what happens when someone at risk gets infected with COVID-19,” says a trained student whose father’s legal partner died of COVID-19 early in the pandemic. said Passman, an epidemiologist. “I know kids are one link in that chain. I know people hate mask mandates, but I hate the way COVID-19 is eating away at our communities.”