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Moderna to offer free COVID vaccine shots to uninsured after emergency ends

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Moderna will offer free COVID-19 vaccines for "uninsured or underinsured people," the company announced Wednesday, pledging to ensure continued access to the shots after the public health emergency ends in May and government-bought supplies run out.

"Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be available at no cost for insured people whether they receive them at their doctors' offices or local pharmacies. For uninsured or underinsured people, Moderna's patient assistance program will provide COVID-19 vaccines at no cost," the company said in a statement.

The announcement comes as the vaccinemaker has come under scrutiny for plans to raise its price on the commercial market.

Rivals Pfizer and BioNTech have already confirmed plans to list their COVID-19 vaccines starting at $110 per dose, more than triple the cost the Biden administration paid for a bulk purchase of updated COVID boosters last summer.

But Democratic lawmakers have warned Moderna against pursuing the same kind of price hike, citing the federal dollars spent to subsidize the company's development of the vaccine.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee announced on Wednesday plans for a hearing titled "Taxpayers Paid Billions For It: So Why Would Moderna Consider Quadrupling the Price of the COVID Vaccine?" with the company's CEO scheduled to testify.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vaccines for Children program already plans to add COVID-19 vaccines to its roster of shots offered at no cost to uninsured and underinsured kids. 

However, Congress has so far not funded the Biden administration's request for a similar sweeping program to provide free vaccinations for adults who do not have health insurance. In lieu of that, federal health officials have said that they might rely on a patchwork of programs ranging from health centers to state and local partnerships to cover these uninsured shots.

"We don't have a vaccine program for the uninsured adult as we do for children. And so it would be really helpful, and we're working now, to see how we can ensure that uninsured adults will get vaccinated," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told a House hearing earlier this month.

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