Log InJoin 

Where to Get Cheap or Free Flu Shots

Where to Get Cheap or Free Flu Shots

The flu season has hit early this year. I made a stop to a grocery store and home improvement store this past weekend and the cashier looked horribly ill at both stores. Allergies this time of year? Doubtful. Should you get a flu shot? Yes! Get one ASAP!

On average, approximately 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get the flu, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related complications each year. Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.

And consider all of the medicine you will be buying if you do get the flu and lost income from work if you are not on salary or lost personal days that would have been your winter or summer vacation. Not to mention the potential cost of doctors visits or hospitalizations. Despite all of that, less than 40% of Americans get flu shots each year, which just blows my mind. It is a smart financial decision to get a flu shot, especially since the most you should ever have to pay is $30 or less. In many cases, flu shots are free!

Flu Shot Effectiveness Rate & Time Before it Takes Effect

I just got my flu shot this past week at my employer for free. After watching both of the aforementioned cashiers blow their nose in front of me after having handled my purchases, I started wondering how long it takes for a flu shot to take effect. According to the CDC's flu.gov site, it generally takes about 2 weeks for the flu vaccine to protect you from catching the flu virus. Great. Needless to say, I washed my hands after unpacking my groceries.

Flu shot effectiveness rate is widely disputed. There are many variables "age, severity during that year, new strains, unreported cases, and even effectiveness by manufacturer" that make it hard to nail down an effectiveness rate. I've seen it reported as anywhere from 40% to 90%. Regardless of effectiveness rate, there is no risk in getting the flu from a flu shot, so sign me up.

Getting Free Flu Shots

There are a number of places to get a free flu shot:

1. Your Employer

My employer offered free flu shots to all employees this year. They also offered free flu shots to family members, for the first time. My wife and I jumped at the opportunity. Check with your employer to see if they will be offering free flu shots this year. If they are not, offer up this feedback - the overall economic impact of the flu in the U.S. is $87.1 billion each year. According to the Center for Prevention and Health Services, the flu indirectly costs your employer about $76.7 million, on average, in missed work and other indirect costs like healthcare.

2. Your Physician through your Health Insurance

Indirectly, through your employer, your health insurance will likely cover free flu shots. In most cases, you will only have to pay your co-pay for a visit to your physician. If you don't have a copay, it's essentially free.

3. Your County Health Department

Many county health departments offer free flu shots to children and the elderly. However, increasingly they are offering this service to everyone. The only downside is the potential for long waiting lines. Check out your county or cities website for more information.

Image by: Daniel Paquet