GREAT FALLS — A viewer emailed us saying she was charged $27 for her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Billings Clinic in Yellowstone County. But when the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services released their first draft of the state’s COVID-19 Vaccination plan in late 2020, Montana Immunization Program Manager Bekki Wehner said “the vaccine will be provided by the federal government without cost.”
“Vaccine prioritization to critical groups and an estimated timeline can be found at dphhs.mt.gov. The guidance includes information about 1a, 1b, and 1c.” That is part of the recorded message you’ll hear if you call the state’s COVID-19 assistance hotline at the Montana DPHHS. Notably, it doesn’t answer many questions, including “will I have to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine?”
So, let’s answer that question: will you have to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine in Montana? The answer is….it depends.
The vaccine itself is free -- although doses are purchased by the government with U.S. Taxpayer dollars, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the CDC, as well as local healthcare organizations have said that how much you’ll actually pay when you go get vaccinated depends on where you are and where you go to get vaccinated.
A quote from the CDC website says, “vaccination providers can charge an administration fee for giving someone a shot.” It also notes that no one can be denied a vaccine if they are unable to pay the administration fee.
In Cascade County, the City-County Health Department says that the vaccine will be provided at no cost, but that’s just one county. The viewer who emailed us lives in Yellowstone county, and it turns out that that $27 is accurate, at least at the Billings Clinic. According to the Clinic’s website, the cost for the first dose of the vaccine is $27.77, while the second dose will set you back $46.54. They also add that your healthcare provider may cover some or all of the cost.
So, is the COVID-19 vaccine itself free? Yes.
But, will you have to pay an administration fee? It’s possible, and it depends on where you live and where you go to get the vaccine. If you’re wondering how much the vaccine may cost you, the best thing to do is to check your local health department’s website and talk to your healthcare provider.