The recently approved Pfizer/ BioNTech COVID-19 booster.

The recently approved Pfizer/ BioNTech COVID-19 booster. Credit: AP/Joe Burbank

No one is expecting a return to the world of everyday mask-wearing, regular testing, school closures, or stay-at-home orders. 

But that doesn't mean we're finished with COVID-19. The Biden administration announced Wednesday the resumption of a program to have free home tests delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. A winter surge is expected.

As COVID-19 cases once again rise, it's become clear the virus likely will be among the world's key health issues for quite some time. It is now a more manageable concern, one that may ebb and flow with the seasons or as new strains emerge, but a concern nevertheless, one we must not dismiss or ignore.

That's why the newest COVID booster approved earlier this month is so important. It can protect individuals against illness and hospitalization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the booster for everyone six months and older. As the COVID virus continues to change, the updated booster can provide a new level of protection, even if you received the initial vaccine doses or additional boosters in the past. And it's especially important for those who are older or immunocompromised.

All of that makes the anti-vaccine push coming from some political corners particularly disappointing. Even more worrisome, however, are the roadblocks some have faced when seeking the vaccine, especially as some Long Islanders are still being told their health insurance doesn't cover the shot. The Affordable Care Act requires in-network coverage of vaccination, without co-payments. Medicare and Medicaid are also mandated to cover all vaccines. So what's the problem? 

Some experts say it's a temporary issue due in part to the cost burden shifting from the federal government, which initially covered COVID vaccination, to insurance companies, which traditionally handle other vaccinations like the flu shot. Others say insurance companies need time to update their systems. Perhaps. But insurers knew this booster was coming and that the onus would be on them. They should have been prepared.

There's also finger pointing in the other direction, as some insurers contend that pharmacies are not properly submitting claims. The blame game doesn't help anyone.

Even without the mandates of the past, it's critical that anyone who wants the vaccine can get it at no cost. And it's especially important that those who are older or otherwise immunocompromised don't have to wait.

With the flu and RSV also percolating, residents should protect themselves in every way they can, to keep themselves safe and healthy heading into the winter months. That includes getting the recommended vaccines as soon as possible. It's up to insurers, pharmacies and physicians to work together to iron out the kinks and make sure all patients who want the COVID booster can get it. 

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.


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