13 Ways to Get Cheap (Or Free) Flu Shots

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Let me preface this story with the fact that I hardly ever get sick. I probably caught a bug here and there, but it’s extremely rare for me to be full-blown sick with the flu.

Flu seasons have come and gone, but I’ve always been fine. That was, until a few winters ago when I took a trip to Vancouver and subsequently came back with the flu. (I blame Canada.)

Because I never get sick, I thought I could easily fight it off within a few days. But rather than getting better, it got worse.

I developed a terrible cough and after a week, finally mustered up enough strength to make it to the doctor, who told me the flu morphed into pneumonia.

It was probably the worst illness I’ve ever experienced. I was not able to get out of bed. I was falling in and out of a medically-induced sleep. Plus, I was waking up intermittently, not knowing what day or time it was. I was bedridden for weeks and missed almost a month of work.

I never, ever want to experience anything like that ever again, and would not wish this on anyone. Flu shots, people.

Embrace it and go get it when flu season strikes. Even if you’re like me and believe you “never get sick.”

Flu Shots Are Preventative Measures

Think of vaccinations as sort of an insurance. It won’t guarantee you’ll be safe from sickness, but it’s good to be prepared.

Flu shots can be hit or miss (some have said it’s only 30 percent effective) and it’s not a guarantee that you’ll avoid getting sick, especially if the vaccination doesn’t cover a particular strain of virus.

The CDC  says that the effectiveness of a flu shot really depends on the match between the strain of the virus, which constantly changes. The vaccine is only designed to protect against three or four viruses that research deems to be the most common for that season.

Better to be covered than not at all. You can find cheap or free flu shots. The best time to get a flu shot is in October. It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to take effect since your body needs time to generate the antibodies.

Who Should Get a Flu Shot?

The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of six months get a flu shot, with emphasis on those who may be more fragile, such as people over the age of 65, younger than 5, pregnant women, and those with emphysema, or chronic lung disease.

Types of Vaccinations

There are two types of vaccinations. One is the trivalent flu shot which is the standard shot that protects against three different strains of influenza.

Then there’s the quadrivalent, which protects against four different viruses — two influenza A viruses and two B viruses.

The quadrivalent usually costs more. I’d go with the quadrivalent since it covers four viruses.

9 Places to Get a Flu Shot for Cheap (Without Insurance)

So, where can you get a flu shot for a discount or for free if you don’t have insurance? Check out the following options and be sure to get your shot this upcoming season.

If you have insurance, check with the pharmacist to see if they accept your insurance. If they do, it’ll most likely be free.

  • Costco Pharmacy: You can get a shot for about $20 and you don’t need a Costco membership to get one.
  • Walmart: $28 and up
  • Walgreens: $32 and up, depending on the location.
  • CVS: $41 and up
  • Rite Aid: $35 and up
  • Sam’s Club: $30 and up
  • Kroger: $30 and up
  • Target: $40 and up (You can get a $5 target coupon if you get a no-cost flu shot. The pharmacies inside Target stores are run by CVS.)
  • Grocery Store: Your local supermarket may offer flu shots as well. Safeway gives you 10 percent off your groceries

If You Have Health Insurance

If you have insurance, there’s no cost to get a shot, as it’s considered part of preventative care (however, it’s always best to call and find out just to be sure). Just go to your doctor and get a shot during your visit.

Medicare (free)

Medicare Part B covers 100 percent of flu shots.

Your Employer (free)

Your employer may offer free flu shots. Ask your HR department if they plan on having free flu shots offered in your workplace.

County Health Department (free)

Your county health department may offer flu shots for free, but be prepared for a crowded office or long wait. Check your county or city website for information.

8 Myths About the Flu

Understanding flu facts from fiction may help you prevent spreading it or catching it. If you have young children, give them a lesson on preventative measures such as how to properly wash hands.

1. You Can Get the Flu from the Actual Vaccine

The flu vaccine is made from an inactivated virus. This means it can’t actually transmit any infection. Those who do get sick after getting a flu shot were going to get sick anyway.

2. If You Get the Flu Shot, You Won’t Get the Flu

Getting vaccinated will reduce the risk of getting the flu, but again, because there are so many different strains of the virus, if you come in contact with one that the vaccine did not cover, you may indeed get sick.

The good news is, if you do get the flu, chances are the symptoms will be milder.

3. The Flu is Only Spread from Those Who Are Full-Blown Sick

Not true. Roughly 20 to 30 percent of people carrying the virus have no symptoms.

4. Getting a Flu Shot One Time is Enough

The strain of the virus changes from year to year, so it’s important to keep up and get vaccinated each season to make sure you have immunity to the most recent strains.

5. All You Need are Antibiotics to Fight the Flu

Antibiotics are only effective against bacteria but not for viruses. The flu is a viral infection.

6. You Can Only Get Sick Once Each Flu Season

Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Because of the many strains of viruses that circulate each year, it is possible to get sick multiple times in one season.

The flu shot only covers three or four strains that may be common for the year. Even if you already got sick but didn’t get the flu shot, it’s recommended that you still get vaccinated.

7. You’re Only Contagious the First 48 Hours of Getting Sick

Because humans release viruses through body secretions like sweat and spit, you can still be contagious longer than two days after initially getting ill.

According to the CDC, you may get others sick when your symptoms first start to develop, going all the way to five or seven days after becoming sick.

8. You Can Catch the Flu (or Cold) When It’s Cold Outside

Remember when your mom would scold you for going outside in the cold without a proper jacket? She probably said, “You’ll catch a cold!” Not true, Mom. The only way to catch the flu is from the virus, not because of particular chilly weather conditions.

Ways to Stay As Healthy As Possible Each Flu Season

  • Make sure to wash your hands regularly with antibacterial soap
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth — since germs are easily spread this way
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly
  • Get lots of rest. Not sleeping enough can weaken the immune system
  • Eat lots of superfoods and those enriched with antioxidants such as wild strawberries, bilberries, walnuts, red beets, and even dark chocolate
  • Exercise regularly and stick to moderate exercise if you think you’re getting sick
  • Keep hydrated
  • If you think you’re getting sick, stay home from the office. Don’t expose more people to getting the virus

Get Vaccinated Each Season

If you get sick, be sure to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Acetometaphin can help relieve some of the aches and reduce your fever.

Sometimes, getting sick is inevitable but there are preventative measures you can take, so the next time you see your local CVS or doctor’s office offering shots, do it!