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Home » Health, Health Insurance

Where to Get Cheap or Free Flu Shots

Last updated by on 30 Comments

I just got my flu shot yesterday. Unfortunately, it’s a week late, as I came down with something last Friday. The 2014-2015 flu season is back once again and sick days are about to start piling up.

Should you get a flu shot? There are many good reasons to…

On average, approximately 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related complications each year. Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.

And consider all of the medicine you will be buying if you do get the flu and lost income from work if you are not on salary or lost personal days that would have been your winter or summer vacation. Not to mention the potential cost of doctors visits or hospitalizations.

Oh yeah, there’s also that whole feeling like crap for days/weeks thing.

Despite all of that, only 46.2% of Americans got flu shots for the 2013-2014 flu season. That’s disappointingly low, considering the cost and widespread availability. It is a smart financial decision to get a flu shot, especially since the most you should ever have to pay is $30 or less. In many cases, flu shots are free!

Flu Shot Effectiveness Rate & Time Before it Takes Effect

cheapest flu shotsI have often wondered how long it takes for a flu shot to take effect. According to the CDC’s flu.gov site, it generally takes about 2 weeks for the flu vaccine to protect you from catching the flu virus. I guess I was 3 weeks too late!

Flu shot effectiveness rate is widely disputed. There are many variables – age, severity during that year, new strains, unreported cases, and even effectiveness by manufacturer – that make it hard to nail down an effectiveness rate. I’ve seen it reported as anywhere from 40% to 90%. Regardless of effectiveness rate, there is no risk in getting the flu from a flu shot, so sign me up.

Getting Free Flu Shots

There are a number of places to get a free flu shot:

1. Your Employer

My employer offered free flu shots to all employees this year. They also are offering free flu shots to family members, for the first time. Check with your employer to see if they will be offering free flu shots this year. If they are not, offer up this feedback – the economic impact of the flu in the U.S. is $87.1 billion per year, on average. According to the Center for Prevention and Health Services, the flu indirectly costs your employer about $76.7 million, on average, in missed work and other indirect costs like healthcare.

2. Your Physician through your Health Insurance

Indirectly, through your employer or if you have a public health insurance exchange, your health insurance is required to pay for your flu shot without any co-sharing, due to Affordable Care Act coverage rules, when given by an in-network provider.

3. Your County Health Department

Many county health departments offer free flu shots to children and the elderly. However, increasingly they are offering this service to everyone. The only downside is the potential for long waiting lines. Check out your county or cities website for more information.

The Cheapest Flu Shot Locations

If you don’t have health insurance, or an employer or county health department that offers free flu shots, there are a number of retailers offering fairly cheap flu shots for the 2014-2015 flu season. If you do have health insurance that covers flu shots, it might even be more convenient than going to your doctor. Most have online scheduling.

Most are not offering their flu shot prices online, so I had to make a few calls.

  • Costco Flu Shots: Costs $14.99. The cheapest on this list if you don’t have insurance.
  • CVS Flu shots: Costs $31.99. You get a 20% off coupon valid on non-sale merchandise and non-pharmacy purchases up to $100 (maximum value $20).
  • Walgreen’s Flu Shots: $31.99. Insurance acceptance varies. Usual co-pay applies.
  • Rite Aid Flu Shots: Costs $31.99. Insurance acceptance varies. Usual co-pay applies.
  • Meijer Flu Shots: Costs $27.99. Insurance acceptance varies. Usual co-pay applies.
  • Wal Mart Flu Shots: Costs $25. Insurance acceptance varies. Usual co-pay applies.
  • Sams Club Flu Shots: Costs $15. Insurance acceptance varies. Usual co-pay applies.
  • Kroger Flu Shots: Costs $28. Insurance acceptance varies. Usual co-pay applies.

Also, check out the CDC’s Flu.gov flu shot locator website, which will provide a map of locations by you that offer flu shots.

Free or Cheap Flu Shot Discussion:

  • Are you getting a flu shot this year? Why or why not?
  • Did I miss any locations or ways to get a free flu shot? Share in the comments!

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30 Comments »
  • Kololia says:

    What you need to know about vaccines. Don’t do it. Learn the truth about the poisons in them from the health experts, who refuse to take the shot themselves and why.
    Get educated and refuse to get vaccinated for better health.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jw43QDiaDnE&feature=share

  • Veronica @ Pelican on Money says:

    Our local county health department gives out free flu shots to everyone. I, however, am very paranoid about any sort of shot the govt. is so eager to give me for free. – Haven’t had one in 5 years.

    • MrsMike says:

      I can’t believe people are suspicious about such a simple science that does so much good for all. (See above RE: polio vaccine). This type of attitude was prevalent in Iran when I was there. Should never be acceptable in areas where a couple of internet searches would provide clear direction from multiple reliable sources. It is a GLOBAL vaccine.

      • steiner says:

        Conspiracy theorists of America, unite! Or something like that…
        Maybe the County is offering free flu shots to lower costs at the emergency room later on. Sounds like, gasp, fiscal conservatism to me.

  • Warren says:

    Even people who don’t get the shots get some benefit. The people who do get the shots reduce the number of people who could potentially give the flue to people who don’t get the shots. It’s still nowhere near the protection afforded by actually getting the shots.

  • I suppose I’m lucky. I work for healthcare and get free flu shots simply because they are required for our jobs. I think flu shots in general are a good idea. There are a lot of myths out there about them (like the idea that they give you the flu) but they do good in general.

  • Cecilia says:

    Tks G.E. Miller thanks where get cheap flu shots need get mine every year I suffer allergies when I get flu shot I’m ok wth allergies tomorrow going to Costco.

  • Jenni says:

    Thanks! Very useful info. I was looking for a list of places that offer flu shots and their prices. Your article was perfect.

  • Denis says:

    Thank you for creating this list

  • Mrs. Waste Not says:

    Check your church! My husband got it for $25 there last year.

  • MaryC says:

    Do you need to be a Costco member to get the flu shot? When getting it from your Dr, do you have to schedule an appointment to get it? If so does your copay apply?

    I only ask because if that is the case that “free” flushot would be $30, so I’d be better off going to Costco

    • G.E. Miller says:

      Yes, you need to be a Costco member. Each individual insurance plan has different rules on co-pays w/ doctor visits – however, if you do have insurance – odds are that this is fully covered since it is “preventative” as that is a requirement of the ACA. Some even fully pay if you stop in to a Costco, CVS, etc.
      The safest bet is to call the # on the back of your insurance card and ask.

      • Lynn says:

        I got a flu shot at Costco last week for $14.99 and I am NOT a member. Just call the store you intend to visit and ask if you’re doubtful…I’m pretty sure they all will give the flu shot ($14.99) to anyone, whether they are a member or not. I’ve also purchased prescription RX there without a membership…they have the absolute lowest RX prices!

      • Ann says:

        I just checked with my local Costco, too, and they said no, I didn’t have to be a member; just need to ask for the pharmacy. Confirmed that it’s $14.99, too.

        Thanks so much for doing this list . . . streamlined the process of finding out where to go.

      • NTang says:

        Costco does not advertise this, but you do not have to be a member to use the pharmacy services. Call your local Costco to confirm.

  • R W says:

    I planned to get the flu shot when I took my kids last week, but when telling my boss she said we should offer it at work (I do HR). I made arrangements for everything, only to find out that about 65% of the staff refuse to even consider the flu shot. You would think I was asking them to do some recreational drugs the way they reacted. “Oh I don’t do that,” “That’s not for me,” etc. For the most part I wouldn’t care about this reaction, but the funny thing is that it seems the most unhealthy people are the ones refusing the shot. Guess we’ll see how many sick days they take this year…

  • Great info. Personally, I dont believe in the flu shot. I think its a myth haha. I have seen people get it and get sick, not get it and get sick, get it and be very sick or not get it and be slightly sick. I see no pattern or result that is “sure fire” with this so I avoid flu shots all together and just try to be healthy, wash my hands and avoid the sick people haha

  • Mak says:

    Walmart in NJ by e is $28 or $29 not $25

  • Sidney says:

    I am in medical school now. The reason the flu vaccine is not 100% protective is because there are literally 1000′s of different strains out there that are constantly evolving. The health authorities make vaccines each season for the strains most likely to infect the particular region in question. This means that if you get a flu shot in the United States that won’t necessarily prevent you from getting a strain of flu that’s going around in Asia.

    It is a very good idea to get preventative vaccines. The vaccines work “better” if more people get them because of the concept of herd immunity, i.e., less people will have a chance of catching a strain and spreading it.

    All the fear about vaccines causing autism in children is 100% rubbish with no proof. Vaccines are one of the greatest inventions of modern medicine and are not to be feared.

  • joyce says:

    Thanks for this hugely helpful list! FYI just checked with my local Walmart (in Norwalk, Connecticut) and the fee is $28.

  • Diana says:

    Just got my flu shot at CostCo for $14.99. Had to wait a while but it was worth it. I have never had any side effects either.

  • Andrea says:

    I know many people who were laid off a long time ago & finding a job has been futile. Don’t let them fool you that the economy is much better, ’cause it is NOT!!!! There are millions who are still hunting for a job! These people need to be given free flu shots, & also, those making low wages & have no insurance! I know a person with 2 little kids who can’t afford these shots at any so-called bargain. the baby has gotten the shot, but Mom & the 4 year old have not! I have searched & searched my area in Northern Indiana & there is no free or very low cost flu shots. We have no Costco, but one is coming! We have a Sam’s Club & you don’t have to be a member to get any vaccines or have your prescriptions filled. Their prices are the same as Walmart! And if you think Walmart is cheap….think again. I live on a limited income & have no prescription coverage, so, I have to call around & find the cheapest place. Believe me, Walmart has some meds that are ridiculously high! Some organizations, etc. should step up to the plate & offer free or low cost flu shots to these people or the media needs to stop scaring these people!

  • Kristen says:

    Hi, I read above the Walmart is cutting down on the # of locations offering flu shots. I was wondering what the rationale was for that (i.e. not going well, risk of side effects, etc.) and if there was a link for the source that mentions this.

  • Mary says:

    Flu shots at Kmart Pharmacies are as low as $24.99 without insurance. No appointment necessary and flu shots are covered by most insurance plans.

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