What do the Vaccines Cost?

Quick Summary: The COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone in the United States, regardless of whether you have health insurance or are undocumented.

All COVID-19 vaccines and boosters in the United States are free for everyone who wants them (including undocumented immigrants and newcomers—in this case, “everyone” means everyone). That may change in the future, but at least for now, you will not have to pay anything to get vaccinated (no charge, no copay, nothing out of your pocket, and they can’t decide later that they want money for a shot you already got). In fact, if you need to take a bus to get your vaccine, CATA will even give you a free ride (they have details here).

What may seem confusing is that when you go to get vaccinated, the people at the vaccination site will probably ask you for your health insurance information. They want it because, while you won’t have to pay anything for the vaccine, it’s still not technically free. Someone will be paying for your dose—it just won’t be you (Pfizer and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are big capitalist companies, and they don’t want to give anything away for free when they can make a profit on it; we hate it, but we’re stuck with it for now). If you have health insurance, your health insurance provider will probably pay for it. If you don’t have health insurance, that’s totally fine—the U.S. government will pay whatever it costs for you to get vaccinated (they basically have a big pot of money just to pay for COVID-19 vaccinations).

A sketch of a medical cross.
A sketch of a medical cross.
A sketch of a person running toward the right.
A sketch of a medical cross.
A sketch of a medical cross.

What’s on the Forms?

Quick Summary: You’re going to have to fill out a form so they know who has been vaccinated.

When you get vaccinated, you’ll have to fill out a form. That’s because the state government has a vaccination database. It means that if you ever need proof that you were vaccinated and lose the card they give you, you can look it up and print it out. The government also is using some of the information to figure out how many people are vaccinated and whether they, the government, are failing certain groups. For example, if they find out that the percentage of the Black population getting vaccinated is much lower than the percentage of the white population getting vaccinated, they could try to change where they offer vaccines, how they advertise them, etc. They’ve actually done some of that, which is good, but more work is necessary.

A sketch of two pieces of paper stacked together. The first one says COVID followed by lines. The bottom is shaded.

Issues for Trans and Nonbinary Folx

Quick Summary: You’re going to need to use your legal name on the form, and it will probably only have “male” and “female” gender options.

One really frustrating thing for a lot of trans and nonbinary folx is that, because they’re using what you write on the form to find your record in an existing government database, you have to use your “legal” name and gender (whatever is on your driver’s license or state ID), and the gender options are only binary (“male” and “female” with no nonbinary or intersex options). That’s especially aggravating if you’ve already gotten the gender marker on your driver’s license or state ID changed to an “X” (instead of “M” or “F”).They started allowing that on November 10, and if you have questions about how to do it, send us an email!

Two human figures hug while surrounded by lines radiating out.

If the form you get is like the one from the Ingham County Health Department (ICHD), it’s not going to say “Legal Name”—it’s simply going to ask for your name under the assumption that you only have one, and it’s going to have only binary gender options. (If you’re going to ICHD to get vaccinated, you can download the form ahead of time to fill it out or look it over.) Some of us from Queering Medicine actually met with people from ICHD back in April 2021 to try to get them to fix the forms, but they didn’t end up changing them.

For those whose legal name isn’t the name they actually use, or whose legal gender is wrong, it’s going to be a pretty uncomfortable form to fill out. To make things worse, if the person who takes the form tries to be friendly, they’re probably going to greet you with your deadname and misgender you (based on what you wrote down). It’s bad and we know it and we hate it. You can obviously explain things to them or correct them if you’re comfortable doing that. It’s an unfortunate part of the process, but hopefully knowing that it’s coming will make it easier (not much easier, because deadnames and misgendering can still hurt, even when we know it’s coming).

The form also only has “male” and “female” options for gender, so you’re going to be stuck with that. If you’re nonbinary, you can try just leaving that part blank unless they tell you you have to fill it in

It Might Ask If You're LGBTQ+

Quick Summary: If there’s a question about whether you’re LGBTQ+, you don’t have to answer it, but they’re just trying to make sure LGBTQ+ people don’t have less access to the vaccines.

If you fill out a form like they use at the Ingham County Health Department, it might also have a question asking “Do you identify as LGBTQ+?” They added that question so they could try to make sure they’re reaching LGBTQ+ people, and they’re only supposed to use the data to collect total numbers (not to put anything in the big database saying how you, as an individual person, answered it), but if you’re not comfortable answering that question on a government form (which we totally understand!), just leave it blank. You are not required to answer it!

A sketch of a symbol indicating multiple gender identities

Do They Need My ID?

Quick Summary: You’ll need to provide ID so they can make sure you are who you say you are.

Expect to be asked to provide some form of identification (for example, your driver’s license or state ID). This is so they can be sure the name going into the database and what’s written on your vaccination card (which is the proof you may be asked for to get into some events and things) is really you. They aren’t going to be checking with the police for warrants or calling ICE or anything like that—they’re just filling in the forms and checking the boxes they’re required to so they can give you a shot and get you back out the door. Oh, and you do not need to provide a Social Security number to get vaccinated.

A sketch of a hand holding up a card that says government ID on it.

Where Can I Get Vaccinated?

Quick Summary: There are a bunch of places you can get vaccinated, from the county health department to your local pharmacy.

If you want to get a COVID-19 vaccine but don’t know where you can do it, you have a bunch of options.

If you’re in the Lansing, Michigan, area, the first option is the Ingham County Health Department (ICHD). They have a page with details on their vaccination process here, and you can schedule your appointment here. ICHD is the place that ran the big mass vaccination sites a few months ago, where thousands of people got vaccinated every day, and that’s where most of the people at Queering Medicine went to get vaccinated. If you’re in another county or state, your local health department should have something similar.

If you don’t want to go to the county health department for any reason, there are plenty of other options, and there’s a website that has a big, searchable list of places that offer COVID-19 vaccines in the area. Most are pharmacies like Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens, which you can also just check with directly if you don’t want to go on that website. On the website, you’ll just put in your ZIP code and select which type of COVID-19 vaccine you want, and it’ll give you a list that’s sorted by how close each place is to you. Note that Pfizer is on the list of vaccine options twice: One is for younger kids (“Pfizer-BioNTech (age 5-11)”) and the other is for older kids and adults (“Pfizer-BioNTech (age 12+)”), because those different age groups get different dosages. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are only for ages 18+, so they’re only on the list once. The site to search is vaccines.gov.

What’s the Step-by-Step Process of Getting Vaccinated?

Quick Summary: You’ll provide some information to identify yourself, the shot will go in your upper arm, and they’ll ask you to wait around for a few minutes to make sure you’re OK.

Your shot will go into the muscle of your upper arm. The person who gives you your shot will make sure you are the correct person, likely by asking your name and date of birth. When getting ready to give you the shot, they will clean your skin first with a bit of rubbing alcohol, check that the vial containing the vaccine has not expired, and using proper technique, will inject the vaccine into your arm with a clean, unused needle. There may be a pinching or sharp feeling, but it will only last a second. If you’re very anxious about needles or vaccines, the anxiety might make you a little light-headed, dizzy, or sweaty.

After receiving the shot, they’ll probably ask you to stick around for another 15 minutes. This is for safety reasons—specifically, they are being extra careful in case you have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Allergic reactions are extremely rare, but if they do happen, it is usually within the first 15 minutes, and they are already prepared to treat you for it right there. It’s a bit irritating (especially if you have other things to do!) and possibly boring (especially if you’re there alone and don’t have a phone or something to read with you), but it’s for your safety, so it’s worth it.

If you have an allergic reaction, you should let them know as soon as possible so they can make sure you are safe and take the appropriate next steps (such as getting you emergency help if you are having difficulty breathing).

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