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I-Team: Walgreens In Framingham Refused To Give COVID Vaccine To 8-Year-Old Girl Due To Insurance Issue

FRAMINGHAM (CBS) -- By the thousands, children between the ages of 5-11 are being vaccinated against COVID-19 all over Massachusetts.

But after making an appointment for her eight-year-old daughter at a Walgreens in Framingham, a mother who did not want to be identified, told WBZ-TV's I-Team she got bad news from the pharmacist.

"She explained that we are not able to get the COVID shot because of our insurance and that it was being rejected," she explained. "You shouldn't have to pay anything to get it. They want everyone to get it."

She's right about that. The state and the CDC both say that the vaccine is free, and you don't need insurance or identification to get it.

So what is going on here?

There are three players involved, including the family's health insurance company, Fallon Health, and the prescription benefits manager, CVS Health and Walgreens.

The I-Team contacted all three and this is where it gets complicated.

A spokesperson for Fallon said the following:

"The COVID-19 vaccine is free to all Fallon Health members—and all people who choose to be vaccinated. And we encourage everyone to do so. We have been made aware that some members, of our plan and others, are incorrectly being turned away from particular pharmacies due to an external processing issue. We are upset about this miscommunication, and are working with our pharmacy benefits manager, CVS Health, to ensure that these individuals can get vaccinated as soon as possible."

But CVS Health told the I-Team it was an issue with Walgreens:

"The federal government has made clear: retail pharmacies administering the COVID-19 vaccine must vaccinate all eligible patients regardless of insurance status. We have inquired with the provider in this situation, and they are re-educating their employees regarding vaccinating any eligible patient with pharmacy benefits administered by Caremark. We will continue to work with our Massachusetts' clients and PBM network pharmacies to ensure our clients' members who want the vaccine can get it safely and efficiently."

When we reached out to Walgreens, a spokesperson promised to provide a statement. But after two days, they still have not responded.

The mother the I-Team spoke with said it is upsetting because these companies have had months to prepare and should have been ready.

"There are a lot of other families that are going through this, looking forward to getting this vaccine to get us to a better place and we are being rejected and told that we can't get it. It's just baffling," she said.

After the I-Team started asking questions, the mom got a call from Fallon saying Walgreens would now vaccinate her daughter.

The I-Team also reached out to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. A spokesperson said they are looking into this issue.

"Turning away an individual for insurance purposes is a violation of the Massachusetts Covid-19 Vaccination Program and the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program," the spokesperson said.

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