Flu season kicks into full gear in October so it’s a good time to start thinking about getting your free flu shot. Flu shots are free for most people with participating insurance plans and even for those without insurance. Not covered? Many local churches, community and free clinics, non-profit organizations and local city governments offer free flu shots without insurance. Additionally, most pharmacy locations offer low-cost flu vaccines so every one has reasonable access to flu protection.
Health Care Providers
Doctor’s Office & Urgent Care
Check with your primary care doctor or your pediatrician to schedule your flu shot. They will provide flu shots with no out of pocket expense if you have qualifying insurance coverage. Can’t make it during normal office hours? Check in with your nearby Urgent Care Center. Most locations are open until at least 8:00 p.m. and they too will offer free flu shots to those with insurance coverage.
Public Health Services & Family Health Centers
Many cities have seasonal events that promote health and wellness in the community. Sometimes they will hold special events offering free flu shots and vaccines to low-income families, the elderly, and others experiencing hard times. In Orange County, free flu shots will be available at the Health Care Agency Flu Clinic. The Orange County Public Health Care Agency offers information on clinics and family care centers, and the Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers can help the uninsured find access to free flu shots and other medical care through their clinic locator tool.
CVS has over 11,000 clinics and pharmacies around the country, including locations inside Target stores, grocers, and more. Many CVS locations now also have Minute Clinics for low cost non emergency health care. CVS offers free flu shots with qualifying insurance coverage and Medicare Part B. At time of administration, you may receive a $5 coupon off your next purchase of $25 or more.
Rite Aid offers free flu shots in-store for people with qualifying medical coverage. Low cost flu shots are available for those without insurance. Rite Aid offers extensive resources online regarding flu-related health, protection, treatment, diagnosis, symptoms, and severity.
Many supermarkets around the country are adding pharmacy departments. While some stores have their own store-brand pharmacy, others partner with larger pharmacy companies like CVS. Generally, with many insurance providers, you are eligible for a free flu shot at in-store pharmacies.
Many Target locations have in-store pharmacy departments. If you have insurance coverage, you may qualify for a free flu shot.
Walgreen’s has been a leading pharmacy service provider since 1901. Like many other locations, Walgreen’s will administer free flu vaccines to those with qualifying medical coverage. Walgreen’s offers several options for the flu shot including preservative free options, immune boosting formulation for ages 65 and over, and the 4-strain shot for ages 6 months and up. Flu shots are also free for VA-enrolled Veterans at Walgreen’s locations.
Most Wal-Mart locations have in-store pharmacy services. If you have insurance coverage, you may be eligible for a free flu shot.
Most colleges have an on-site student health center. These locations often offer free flu shots to registered students to help minimize the risk of a flu outbreak. Many college students opt out of getting the flu shot, but getting one for free at school saves money, reduces your risk of catching the flu, and reduces the likelihood of students missing important class work because of illness.
Many businesses and corporations now offer special workplace health care fairs as a seasonal event to vaccinate employees. So many people sharing office space is likely to result in the spread of infection. In an effort to reduce exposure to the flu and minimize employee sick-time, employers are now offering free on-site flu shots for employees. These can often be organized with local pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreen’s, and Rite Aid.
Flu Shot FAQ
Where can I get a flu vaccine?
See our list above.
When to Get a Flu Shot?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October.
Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?
There are two main reasons:
1. The vaccinations effectiveness declines over time (some studies say about 6 months).
2. Flu viruses are constantly changing and the formulation of the flu vaccine is updated each year.
Does flu vaccine work right away?
No. It takes about two weeks after vaccination to start working.
How Well Does the Flu Vaccine Work?
Recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population.
Can I get a flu even with I have been vaccinated?
- You may get the flu shortly after being vaccinated and the body has not built up full protection.
- You may get the flu from a long flu season where the effects of the vaccination have worn away
- You may be exposed to a flu virus that is not included in the seasonal flu vaccine.
- Unfortunately, even with following all the parameters for flu protection it is still possible to get a flu infection. The flu vaccination is not perfect.
Reasons Not to Get a Flu Shot
The CDC lists a full of people who should NOT get a flu vaccination which is best to consult for up to date information.
Flu and Flu Shot Information
- Always consult with a doctor before you get a flu shot, especially if you have egg allergies.
- Common flu symptoms include fever, cough, headaches, body aches, chills, fatigue, sore throat, and runny or stuffy nose.
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone six months and older receive the flu shot.
- People over 65, young children, pregnant women, and people with chronic conditions and weakened immune systems are at increased risk of suffering from complications from the flu virus.
- The flu is highly contagious and affects the nose, throat, and the lungs.
- Many people develop complications from the flu, including pneumonia, ear infections, and sinus infections. Chronic conditions can become inflamed as a result of the flu.
- Flu season runs from October through May.
- Children under six months old should not get a flu shot.
- Some flu vaccines are available as a nasal spray.
- Different flu shots are recommended for different age groups.
- Flu shots are administered in the arm muscle.
- There are several types of flu shots including
- Standard-dose trivalent shots (IIV3): These are made with virus grown in eggs. One trivalent vaccine formulation is available with a jet injector and is approved for persons 18-64 years of age. A high-dose trivalent shot is approved for people ages 65 and up. A new trivalent flu shot made with adjuvant (an ingredient that helps increases immune response in the body), is approved for people 65 years and up.
- Quadrivalent flu shots: These are made with a virus grown in cell culture and are approved for ages four and up. A recombinant quadrivalent flu shot has been approved for ages 18 and up, and is approved for use by pregnant women. There is also a new quadrivalent live attenuated nasal spray flu vaccine that is made with weakened live flu viruses.
Common Flu Symptoms
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches
- Chills and fatigue