Where to Get Cheap or Free Flu Shots (Updated for 2013)
I just received my 2012 seasonal flu shot. None too soon, as flu season is here once again.
Should you get a flu shot? Here’s some 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, less than 40% of Americans get flu shots each year, which just blows my mind. 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
I just got my free flu shot this past week at my employer. I 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.
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 offered free flu shots to family members, for the first time. My wife and I jumped at the opportunity. 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 overall economic impact of the flu in the U.S. is $87.1 billion each year. 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, your health insurance is now required to pay for your flu shot without any co-sharing, due to the Affordable Care Act, 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. 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 $16.99. The cheapest on this list if you don’t have insurance.
- CVS Flu shots: Costs $31.99. You get a 20% off coupon for your next shopping visit.
- Walgreen’s Flu Shots: $31.99. Insurance acceptance varies. Usual co-pay applies.
- Rite Aid Flu Shots: Costs $29.99. Insurance acceptance varies. Usual co-pay applies.
- Meijer Flu Shots: Costs $24.99. Insurance acceptance varies. Usual co-pay applies.
- WalMart Flu Shots: Costs $25. 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!