The 2018 flu season is already proving to be a deadly one. The flu epidemic has already caused massive spikes in hospitalizations and deaths in states ranging from California to New York. And while the ideal time to get a flu shot is in the fall, you can still get the flu vaccine, often times for free, at retail clinics like CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Costco.
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Flu shot costs
Many employer-sponsored health care plans offer free flu shot coverage at clinics. If you haven’t already, you can ask your human resources department if your company offers such benefits.
Your insurance may cover the cost of getting a flu shot at convenient retail locations like CVS, Walgreens, Costco, Rite Aid, and others. These locations are usually far less expensive than getting a flu shot at the doctor’s office, especially if you don’t have health insurance.
For instance, your out-of-pocket costs for a flu shot at CVS would be about $40 (and about $67 for the stronger version recommended for the elderly). On the cheaper side, Costco offers a $20 regular “quadrivalent” version and a $44 variety for older people, making it the cheapest out-of-pocket option in some markets, according to Cheapism. Rite Aid, Kroger, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, and others tend to offer flu shots for between $35 and $70 without health insurance, depending on the type of vaccine.
Why you should still get a flu shot this season
Flu season can last through May, and H3N2—the viral strain that’s propped up most often during the ongoing flu outbreak—is a particularly nasty one, according to public health experts. It’s especially deadly for the elderly, which is why officials are still urging older Americans in particular to get their flu vaccines. People over the age of 65 are recommended a higher-dose flu shot, such as Fluzone High-Dose and FLUAD.
Despite concerns that this year’s flu vaccine may only be 30% to 40% effective (the general range is usually between 40% and 60% since it’s difficult to gauge which viral strain will be dominant in a given year), officials still recommend flu shots for everyone who doesn’t have a specific allergy to the vaccine. Even people with egg allergies may be able to get a traditional flu shot, according to a large new study released last year.
Another caveat: It is still possible to contract the flu after getting a flu shot since the vaccine you receive may not protect against all strains. A “quadrivalent” flu shot is built for more strains than a “trivalent” one. But even though there could be other versions floating around, public health experts agree that some protection is better than none.