Although shipments of the newest COVID-19 vaccines started arriving in Southern California pharmacies and clinics last week, Kaiser Permanente members will need to wait just a little longer to get their shot from the healthcare provider.
Kaiser Permanente, which serves more than 9 million Californians, is not yet offering its members the newest booster — formulated to target viral strains health officials believe will be dominant this fall. Kaiser said it expects to begin administering the updated shots across the region by Sept. 28.
In the meantime, Californians insured through Kaiser can visit another pharmacy to be vaccinated, but they should be prepared to pay steep out-of-pocket costs.
Pharmacies including CVS and Walgreens began receiving the updated vaccine last week. The shot is available at the drugstores at no cost through most insurance plans. But pharmacists at multiple CVS locations in Los Angeles said Wednesday that Kaiser members would not be able to get the shot at the drugstore if they wanted it covered through insurance.
CVS pharmacists said the booster would cost a little more than $190 for those paying out of pocket. Pharmacists at Walgreens said people insured through Kaiser would have to pay an out-of-pocket cost of about $155.
Nancy Gin, Kaiser’s regional medical director of quality and clinical analysis for Southern California, said that in past years, Kaiser members could get their COVID-19 vaccines anywhere because it was covered by the federal government. But after the end of the national COVID-19 public health emergency in May, many Kaiser members were no longer eligible for free shots at non-Kaiser Permanente sites. Kaiser members will be able to get their shots free at Kaiser facilities.
People insured through the other major health insurance providers should be able to get their boosters covered at CVS and Walgreens, pharmacists at the two drugstore chains said.
CVS pharmacies began receiving the updated vaccine Sept. 13, according to a company spokesperson. People can use the company’s digital scheduler to see if their pharmacy has gotten its delivery.
Walgreens is also offering the new vaccines nationwide. Appointments can be scheduled immediately online or by calling (800) WALGREENS.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said it is waiting for doses to arrive but expects to start administering the vaccine in the coming days.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that everyone older than 6 months get a newly updated COVID-19 vaccination alongside their annual flu shot.
CVS and Walgreens are also participating in the CDC’s temporary Bridge Access Program, which provides free vaccinations for uninsured and underinsured adults through the end of 2024. Participating providers can be found at vaccines.gov. Another federal program, Vaccines for Children, provides free vaccinations to eligible kids.
Federal health officials recommend people 5 and older receive a single dose of the updated vaccine — as long as it has been two months since their last dose. Previously vaccinated babies and young children — ages 6 months to 4 years — can receive one or two doses of the vaccine, depending on which brand of vaccine they previously got.
Times staff writer Emily Alpert Reyes contributed to this report.