Where to Get Free or the Cheapest Flu Shots (Updated 2022 List)

Beware! The 2022 flu season is in full force. This article has been updated for the current 2022 flu season to cover where to get the cheapest or even free flu shots this year. And, yes, you should get a flu shot this year (in addition to full COVID-19 vaccination). After a slow flu season last year, due to COVID-19 precautions, the flu has had a resurgence this year, with most businesses fully reopening and lesser public masking and social distancing requirements than during the last flu season. And, with many hospitals across the country being overwhelmed with COVID-19 testing and hospitalizations, this could be the most critical year in history for us to get our flu shots. To further make the case for getting the flu vaccine, the dominant flu strain this season is A(H3N2), which is covered in the quadrivalent flu vaccines.




More broadly, on average, approximately 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get the flu and more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized for flu-related complications each year. The CDC estimates seasonal flu deaths from recent flu seasons in the United States at a low of 12,000 (2011-2012) to an estimated high of 52,000 (2017-2018), with hospitalizations in the hundreds of thousands each year. Add that burden on top of the COVID-19 overload, and spread of the flu virus could have a compounding negative effect on the U.S. health care system.

While the flu vaccine does not offer any protection against COVID-19, that does not make getting the flu vaccine any less essential. Like COVID-19, the influenza virus attacks the lungs, and it is possible to contract both the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously, which could complicate recovery and increase the risk of hospitalization and possibly even death for any individual unfortunate enough to contract both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

Aside from community, family, co-worker, and personal health benefits, getting a flu shot is also a smart financial decision. Consider the cost of all of the medicine and related treatments you will be buying if you do get the flu, the lost income from work if you are paid hourly wages, or the lost personal days that could have been banked for future time off of work. And all of that is on top of the potentially astronomical costs of doctors visits and/or hospitalizations.

cheapest flu shots

Where to Get a Free Flu Shot

For starters, there are a number of ways that you may be able to get a free flu shot:

  1. Your Employer: My previous employer offered free flu shots to all employees and their families, as the flu has been estimated to cost $34 billion in lost productivity for businesses, per year. Check with your employer to see if they will be offering free flu shots this year and tout the potential cost savings for them to do so, if they are not.
  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-payment, due to Affordable Care Act coverage rules (when given by an in-network provider). If you are over age 65, Medicare Part B covers the cost of flu shots. And most state Medicaid agencies cover the cost of flu shots for Medicaid participants as well.
  3. Your County Health Department: Many county health departments offer free flu shots to children and the elderly, and it is increasingly being offered to everyone. The only downside is the potential for long waiting lines. Check out your county or city’s website for more information.
  4. Your Library: This one is surprising, but a number of public libraries offer free flu shots. Check with yours.
  5. Your School, College, or University: Many educational institutions now offer free flu shots to their students. Check to confirm.
  6. The VA: Veterans who are eligible for VA health care can get a free flu shot at any VA facility.

free flu shots




The Cheapest Flu Shot Retailers

If you don’t have health insurance, employer, health department, or other source that offers free flu shots, there are a number of retailers offering discounted or cheap flu shots for the 2022 flu season. And if you do have health insurance that covers flu shots (most do), it might even be more convenient to get a free flu shot at one of these locations than going to your doctor. Most offer online scheduling.

Retailers and pharmacies usually do not offer their flu shot prices online, but thankfully I have a phone and made a few calls. Here are the flu shot prices that I found (note that prices and availability may vary by location and insurance co-pays may apply):

Costco

Costco flu shot

  • Costco flu shot price: $19.99 (standard quadrivalent vaccine), with membership discount
  • FLUAD High-dose flu shot price (for age 65+): $46.99, with membership discount
  • FluMist Nasal Mist spray flu vaccine price: $24.99, with membership discount
  • Discounts/Promotions: Costco is the cheapest flu shot retailer on this list, but prices listed are for members. Non-membership prices may be higher.
  • How to get a Costco flu shot: walk-ins are welcome, or you can schedule an appointment online for a flu shot at Costco. Flu shots are one of the services you can get from Costco without a membership.

Sam’s Club

Sam's Club flu shot

  • Sam’s Club flu shot price: $20 (standard quadrivalent vaccine), with membership discount
  • FLUAD High-dose flu shot price (for age 65+): $48.99, with membership discount
  • FluMist Nasal Mist spray flu vaccine price: $25, with membership discount
  • Discounts/Promotions: prices listed are for Sam’s Club members. Non-membership prices may be higher.
  • How to get a Sam’s Club flu shot: walk-ins are welcome, or you can schedule an appointment online for a flu shot at Sam’s Club. Flu shots at the Sam’s Club Pharmacy is one of the services you can get from Sam’s Club without a membership.

CVS

CVS flu shot

  • CVS flu shot price: $40.99 (standard quadrivalent vaccine)
  • FLUAD High-dose flu shot price (for age 65+): $73.99
  • Discounts/Promotions: you can get a $5 off $20 coupon for a subsequent purchase.
  • How to get a CVS flu shot: walk-ins are welcome, or you can schedule an appointment online for a flu shot at CVS.

Target

Target flu shot

  • Target flu shot price: $40.99 (standard quadrivalent vaccine)
  • FLUAD High-dose flu shot price (for age 65+): $73.99
  • Discounts/Promotions: $5 Target gift card off a $20 purchase if you get a flu shot at a Target CVS pharmacy.
  • How to get a flu shot: walk-ins are welcome, or you can schedule an appointment online for a flu shot at Target.

Walgreens

Walgreens flu shot

  • Walgreens flu shot price: $43.99 (standard quadrivalent vaccine), $35 with GoodRx discount
  • FLUAD High-dose flu shot price (for age 65+): $81.49, $65.50 with GoodRx discount
  • Discounts/Promotions: not available
  • How to get a flu shot: walk-ins are welcome, or you can schedule an appointment online for a flu shot at Walgreens.

Rite Aid

Rite Aid flu shot

  • Rite Aid flu shot price: $44 (standard quadrivalent vaccine)
  • FLUAD High-dose flu shot price (for age 65+): $85
  • Discounts/Promotions: not available
  • How to get a flu shot: walk-ins are welcome, or you can schedule an appointment online for a flu shot at Rite Aid.

Walmart

Walmart flu shot

  • Walmart flu shot price: $42 (standard quadrivalent vaccine)
  • FLUAD High-dose flu shot price (for age 65+): $76.50
  • Discounts/Promotions: not available
  • How to get a flu shot: walk-ins are welcome, or you can schedule an appointment online for a flu shot at Walmart.

Kroger

Kroger flu shot

  • Kroger flu shot price: $65 (standard quadrivalent vaccine)
  • FLUAD High-dose flu shot price (for age 65+): $85
  • Discounts/Promotions: not available
  • How to get a flu shot: walk-ins are welcome, or you can schedule an appointment online for a flu shot at Kroger.

Safeway

Safeway flu shot

  • Safeway flu shot price: $47.99 (standard quadrivalent vaccine), $32 with GoodRx discount
  • FLUAD High-dose flu shot price (for age 65+): $85.99, $62 with GoodRx discount
  • Discounts/Promotions: Safeway usually runs a 10% off groceries on your next visit promotion, with a flu shot, which could be a lucrative promotion!
  • How to get a flu shot: walk-ins are welcome, or you can schedule an appointment online for a flu shot at Safeway.

Meijer

Meijer flu shot

  • Meijer flu shot price: $37.99 (standard quadrivalent vaccine), $33 with GoodRx discount
  • FLUAD High-dose flu shot price (for age 65+): $82.62, $68.76 with GoodRx discount
  • Discounts/Promotions: not available
  • How to get a flu shot: walk-ins are welcome, or you can schedule an appointment online for a flu shot at Meijer.

Publix

Publix flu shot

  • Publix flu shot price: $52 (standard quadrivalent vaccine)
  • FLUAD High-dose flu shot price (for age 65+): $180
  • Discounts/Promotions: Publix occasionally runs a $10 gift card promotion, with a flu shot.
  • How to get a flu shot: walk-ins are welcome, or you can schedule an appointment online for a flu shot at Publix.

Flu Shot Price Notes:

  • The standard quadrivalent flu shot is designed to protect against four different flu strain viruses; two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses and is now the standard offered everywhere.
  • The trivalent flu shot option is not being carried yet by any retailer this year.
  • The FLUAD quadrivalent flu shot is recommended for those age 65 and over, as it includes an adjuvant designed to strengthen, broaden, and lengthen the duration of the flu vaccine response.
  • Even though I have listed the 65+ FLUAD quadrivalent prices here, everyone in this age group is eligible for free flu shots if they are enrolled in Medicare, Part B.
  • In prior years, the CDC found that the FluMist quadrivalent nasal mist spray option was not as effective compared to the flu shot and it was pulled from the market. However, it is being offered at a few retailers and public health departments, with the disclaimer that certain populations should not use it.

If none of these retailers have locations by you, check out the CDC’s vaccines.gov flu shot vaccine locator website, which will provide a map of providers near you that offer flu shots.

Flu Shot Effectiveness Rate & Time Before it Takes Effect

I have often wondered how long it takes for a flu shot to take effect. According to the CDC, it generally takes about 2 weeks for the flu vaccine to protect you from catching the flu virus.

The flu shot effectiveness rate is widely disputed. There are many variables – age, severity of a virus in a given season, new strains, unreported cases, and even effectiveness by manufacturer – that make it hard to nail down an effectiveness rate. I’ve seen effectiveness rates 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. It is recommended that everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu shot. And it is recommended that children between 6 months and 8 years of age get 2 shots per season.

Can you Get the COVID & Flu Vaccine at the Same Time?

Yes, there is no conflict between the COVID-19 and flu vaccines. You can get both within the same season, and even at the same time. There has even been discussion about combining the two vaccines together at some point.

And, yes, you can get infected with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time too. So, get both vaccines!

Cheap or Free Flu Shot Discussion:

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

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