It’s vaccine time in Eagle County, but free shots are no longer the norm

Some free vaccines are available to Medicaid patients

Pharmacist Kim Nguyen prepares to administer a Moderna Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine at a CVS, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023, in Cypress, Texas.
Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle via AP

For most people, seasonal shots aren’t free anymore and can be quite expensive.

During a Tuesday public health update to the Eagle County Board of Commissioners, Rebecca Larson, the county’s deputy public health director, provided an update about the three vaccines currently in use, the options for vaccinations, and how those shots are paid for.

Larson told the commissioners there’s “mostly good news” regarding the COVID-19 virus. Larson said Eagle County started to see an uptick in cases in about mid-August. While cases may be rising, Larson said while there’s been a slight increase in hospitalizations at the national level there hasn’t been a corresponding increase in hospitalizations in Eagle County.

Larson noted there’s now a new COVID vaccine variant, approved by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. That vaccine is recommended for people six months old and older.

The vaccine may require more than one dose for some high-risk individuals, and people who have recently had COVID-19 should wait at least three months before getting the new vaccine. Larson said the vaccine is effective against both current and coming COVID-19 variations.

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While the federal government paid for the first few rounds of vaccinations, Lardon said the cost of COVID-19 vaccines is now being borne by health insurance companies or private payments. Private-pay patients will pay about $150 for the shot, Larson said.

Eagle County Public Health will provide vaccines to children and adults on Medicaid, or who are under- or uninsured.

But, Larson added, the latest vaccine isn’t yet widely available, with supplies expected to increase in the next week or so.

The respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is also becoming widespread in the fall and early winter. Another vaccine is available to ward off that virus. Larson said high-risk adults and children can be among those hit hardest by RSV.

Vaccines are available for both older adults — those older than 60 — and young children.

The RSV shots are expensive — as much as $300 per dose — but insurers usually cover that cost.

As with the COVID-19 vaccine, Eagle County will provide shots to Medicaid patients, as well as the under- or uninsured.

Larson noted there’s also been a slow rollout for the RSV vaccine.

A third vaccine, for influenza, is recommended for people six months old and older. Those vaccines starting next week will be on the county’s MIRA buses. The shots are free on the bus, and at a cost and by appointment at other Eagle County Public Health locations.

The flu shot is widely available, and Commissioner Matt Scherr said he’s seen vaccinations offered for as little as $5 from City Market pharmacies.

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For those who do succumb to a respiratory virus, Larson said staying home is the best way to both recover and prevent spreading disease. Frequent, almost obsessive hand-washing can help slow or stop the spread. People who are infected should also cover their coughs and sneezes.

And, Larson said, masks “can still be an effective tool” to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.

If you’re of a certain age — 60 or older — you may have received an email or text from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment with a reminder that it’s time for your annual flu shot. The message also asks recipients to ask whether they should receive an RSV vaccine.

For more information, go to the Eagle County Health web page.

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