Every year, in late summer or early fall, I add “get a flu shot” to my to-do list. I want to make sure that I get my immunization early enough in the season so that my body builds up immunity for when peak flu season hits. The one year I got the shot too late and got the flu, well, 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. That’s great for folks like me who have insurance.
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 offer different incentives to get you to get your flu shot there. At CVS, for example, if you’re enrolled in the ExtraCare Rewards program, you’ll receive a 20 percent off CVS Shopping Pass upon getting the flu shot. This is available in most states. This year Walgreens lets you give back when you get your flu shot, with its “get a shot, give a shot” program, that helps people in developing countries receiving life-saving immunizations. That’s my daughter’s arm, above, after getting her flu shot for free at Walgreens and supporting the good cause. Walgreens and Duane Reade are owned by the same company. FYI, don’t forget to spend your FSA dollars before the end of the year!
Many supermarkets have a pharmacy inside, making grocery shopping and picking up prescriptions much more convenient. It can also 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.) Target is another big box store that offers flu shots.
4. URGENT CARE CLINICS
Earlier this year, strep throat had me visiting my local urgent care clinic–because my symptoms became unbearable after hours, my doctor’s office was closed, and I wasn’t going to go to the emergency room. Turns out 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 without a big hassle. 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
Employers know it is good business sense to encourage their employees not to get sick. That’s why so many offer free flu shots. Ask your human resources department if/when your company may be having a flu shot clinic. 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. I would suggest checking the latest issue to see if there are any flu shot clinics listed. 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. Every year she is able to get a free flu shot through her union. 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
Going out of town and 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.