The importance of getting a flu shot can’t be overstated, especially for those who are at a higher risk like young children, pregnant women, older adults, and the immunocompromised or disabled. (If you’re living or traveling outside the US, you’re also at higher risk.)
Before the various types of flu shot we have now—quadrivalent, nasal spray, high-dose, and more—there was only one option when it came to protecting yourself from the yearly flu. Now, you have options, and there are ways to get vaccinated even if you’re allergic to eggs, worried about preservatives, or just don’t like needles.
If you’re worried about cost, know that flu shots can range from $0 (yes, free) to $50 or more, depending on where you get your shot and what kind of vaccine you receive. Whether you’re insured or not, there are ways to make your family’s vaccines affordable.
For this year’s flu season, the experts have some new recommendations. We’ll also show you how to save no matter where you’re getting your shot.
ACIP recommends nasal spray flu vaccine should not be used (again)
The CDC’s panel of experts known as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted again this year that the nasal spray flu vaccine known as FluMist should not be used for the 2017-2018 flu season.
For the first time last year, the ACIP recommended against the use of the nasal flu vaccine. There are concerns about how effective it was against flu viruses in the US in previous years.
Scared of needles? Intradermal flu vaccines are your best bet
With the nasal spray option off the table, consider an intradermal flu shot. The intradermal shot uses a small, ultra-thin needle that’s 90% smaller than the ones used for other flu shots. The intradermal vaccine is given through your skin (intradermal) where the regular shot is given into the muscle (intramuscular).
Currently, Fluzone Intradermal is the only small-needle flu shot available.
Keep in mind—you can get your flu shot and a shingles vaccine together
The FDA now has substantial data showing that getting a flu shot and shingles vaccine at the same time is perfectly fine. The shingles vaccine, also known as Zostavax, is used for the prevention of shingles in adults 50 years of age and older.
Make sure to get your flu shot early
It can take up to 2 full weeks before you’re fully protected after you get your shot. It’s always best to get vaccinated and make sure you’re protected as early in the flu season as possible, before you may be exposed to others who have the flu. However, this is especially important if you plan to travel this fall—make sure to plan ahead and get your shot more than 2 weeks ahead of time so you’re protected once you hit the road (or the air).
If you’re pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, get the flu vaccine
The flu vaccine is recommended if you will be pregnant during flu season (as early as October through as late as May). A flu shot can be given at any time during pregnancy, before and during flu season.
Your child may need 2 doses of the flu vaccine
If your child is 6 months to 8 years old, evidence from several studies shows that they require 2 doses of the flu shot (given at least 4 weeks apart) during their first season of vaccination for optimal protection.
Children 6 months through 8 years who have previously received 2 or more total doses of flu vaccination (trivalent or quadrivalent, it doesn’t matter) before July 1, 2017 will need only 1 dose this year.
You must be a certain age to receive a high-dose flu shot
You may not have to go to your doctor—or even your pharmacy
Flu vaccine accessibility continues to get better. You can still get a flu shot (and other vaccines) from your doctor, or your pharmacy—but many people are getting vaccinated at clinics, health departments, at school or a community center, and even through employers.
If you do prefer to get your flu shot from your doctor, check with the office first to see if they have the current flu vaccinations available for the 2017-2018 flu season, and ask if you’ll need an appointment.
Use these resources help you figure out where to get your shot
First, check GoodRx for discounts at flu shot prices at pharmacies in your area!
The HealthMap vaccine finder is also great tool for finding where to get vaccinated. Their site allows you to search by location, and to see a list of places near you that have the shot available. Make sure to call ahead whether you see your pharmacy on the list or not. And if you don’t see your local pharmacy, don’t be discouraged, they may still offer flu shots.
Flu shots can be expensive . . .
Flu vaccines start at about $20, and can cost more than $50 per shot, if you’re paying out of pocket with no discount or insurance. You’ll pay more if you’re getting one of the less common varieties like the high-dose shot or the nasal spray.
Medicare Part B completely covers flu shots—if you have Part B, your shot should be free. Commercial insurance plans often cover flu shots at no cost to you, because they are considered preventive care. One exception: if you get a shot from your doctor, you may still have to pay for the office visit.
. . . But there are lots of ways to save
Around this time of year, there are an abundance of free clinics and events offering low-cost or free flu shots across the US. Watch for announcements on your local news station, or in the local newspaper—or search online for free flu shots in your area. These are often very specific to your area, so keep an eye out.
Many pharmacies also have a flat rate for flu shots, or offer discounts or other perks if you get vaccinated at their stores. There are fewer offers out there than in previous years, but a few examples include:
- CVS offers a coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase when you get a flu shot. CVS doesn’t offer discounts on the vaccination itself, but they do note that your shot will most likely be free if you have any kind of insurance.
- Costco has shots starting at $19.99 (and a great list of tips on how to prepare for your shot.)
- Walgreens doesn’t offer a discount, but they do have a “give a shot, get a shot” program. When you get vaccinated at Walgreens, they will provide a vaccine to a child in need.
- Walmart also offers flu shots starting at $39.84.
Most pharmacies started receiving their shipments for the 2017-2018 flu shots in August, so go get vaccinated!