One year I didn’t get a flu shot, and I got the flu. It was awful. From then on I was convinced–I must get a flu shot. Even better, I believe in getting free or cheap flu shots. It’s important to invest in your health with an annual flu vaccine.
Did you know one of the biggest reasons to get your flu shot as early as possible? You want to make sure that your body has enough time to build up immunity for when peak flu season hits. Like I said, one year I got the shot too late. That was the year that I got the flu. Let me tell you, it was pretty awful.
Because I have asthma, my flu shots have always been free. (Read: pre-existing condition.) But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I believe that most people with insurance now qualify for a free flu shot or at least a cheap flu shot.
Also, Americans who have Medicare Part B may not have to pay for their flu shot. If you are a Medicare Part B participant, check first before rolling up your sleeve for your flu shot.
But what about people who don’t have insurance or who aren’t old enough to qualify for Medicare? Here are 11 ideas on where you can go for free or cheap flu shots this year.
1. DRUGSTORES/PHARMACY CHAINS
Most of the major drugstores and pharmacy chains are likely to offer flu shots. Many take insurance, meaning that your flu shot may end up being free. Some stores offer different flu shot incentives. At CVS, for example, customers enrolled in the ExtraCare Rewards program receive a 20 percent off CVS Shopping Pass when they visit CVS for a flu shot. This is available in most states. Another drugstore option is Walgreens, which lets you give back when you get your flu shot, with its “get a shot, give a shot” program. This program helps people in developing countries receiving life-saving immunizations. Keep in mind that Walgreens and Duane Reade are owned by the same company. And, finally, don’t forget to spend your FSA dollars before the end of the year!
2. CHEAP FLU SHOTS AT SUPERMARKETS
Many supermarkets have a pharmacy inside, making grocery shopping and picking up prescriptions much more convenient. Getting your flu shot at the supermarket can save you from making an extra stop to get your flu shot. Check with your local supermarket pharmacy about flu shot availability and see if you can get it for free, with insurance, or just really cheap. Note: some supermarket pharmacies will only give a flu shot to those age 18 or older. I learned this the hard way when I took my then-17 year old daughter to get a flu shot, and we were turned away.
3. BIG BOX STORES
You might not think of Kmart as a place to get free or cheap flu shots, but you would be wrong. Not only does the chain offer them, but Shop Your Way members will receive Pharmacy Rewards points for each flu shot purchased. (Without insurance the Trivalent flu shot is $27.99.) Another option? Target. Target is another big box store that offers flu shots. Note: All Target pharmacies have now transitioned to CVS Pharmacy locations inside of Target stores and operate as a ‘store-within-a-store. Finally, you can get a free $5 Target gift card when you get your flu shot at Target.
4. URGENT CARE CLINICS
You can visit your local urgent care clinic for cheap flu shots, too. For example, for a limited time, American Family Care, the nation’s largest urgent care chain, will be providing $10 flu vaccines.
5. FREE PRESCRIPTION DRUG CARD
Even with insurance my prescriptions can cost a bundle. I’ve noticed that many supermarket pharmacies have started prescription drug card programs to help ease the financial burden of prescription drugs. One company offers a no-strings-attached free prescription drug card, which can help you get cheap flu shots. Called Watertree Health the company provides access to affordable prescription drug coverage through their free prescription drug card, including savings on flu vaccines (up to 42% cheaper this year).
6. STATE, COUNTY AND LOCAL HEALTH CLINICS
Every year Departments of Health roll out free flu shot clinics. Check the Department of Health in your state or county to see if/when there might be an upcoming flu shot clinic.
7. COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
Got a kid in college? Send him or her to health services for a flu shot. Chances are it is free. It’s a great way for students to get a flu shot. If you live near a college or university, that institution may extend its free and cheap flu shots to those in the neighborhood.
8. YOUR EMPLOYER MAY OFFER FREE OR CHEAP FLU SHOTS
Employers know it is good business sense to encourage their employees not to get sick. That’s why so many offer free flu shots. First, ask your human resources department if your company may be having a flu shot clinic. Then find out where it will be held. You may have to travel to a different company location, but it will be worth the trip.
9. HEALTH SYSTEMS AND HOSPITALS
Sometimes hospitals or health systems will offer walk-in flu shot clinics. Many of these health systems have magazines that they mail to members or at least residents living close by. These magazines should include a list of any upcoming flu shot clinics. Look in the section where these magazines often list free classes or workshops that they offer.
10. UNION ORGANIZATIONS
A friend of mine is an actress in New York City and, as such, is a member of the Actors’ Equity, a union. Her union qualifies her for a free flu shot each year. So if you or a family member has a union membership, check with your union rep about any upcoming flu shot clinics.
11. THE AIRPORT
Are you going out of town? Did you forgot to get your flu shot? You may be in luck as a handful of U.S. airports have medical clinics on site (or close nearby) that offer immunizations. Some of these airports are in San Francisco, New York City, Nashville, Atlanta and Chicago.
Finally, people with egg allergies can get a flu shot, now that there is a flu shot option that does not include eggs. It’s called Flublok.