Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Where to find cheap or free flu shots

Flu season is peaking, but it's not too late for a vaccination.

By Stacy Johnson Jan 21, 2013 2:42PM

This post comes from Trisha Sherven at partner site Money Talks News


Money Talks News logoIf you've ever had the flu, you know how awful it is -- high fever, muscle aches, chills, vomiting. You feel as if you've been run over by a truck.


Once you've got it, antibiotics won't help; they're for bacterial infections, not viruses like the flu. So the best medicine is prevention, including common-sense things like washing your hands, avoiding contact with people to whatever extent possible and getting vaccinated.


Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most private insurance is now required to cover preventive care, which includes vaccinations, at no cost to you. That means no copay and no deductible. The same is true for those covered by Medicare Part B. But if you don't have insurance, there are still ways to find free or cheap flu shots. 

How effective is it?

According to the CDC, this year's flu vaccine is about 60% effective in preventing influenza infection. Part of the reason flu shots can't be 100% effective is that they're developed months before flu season, so they can't cover all strains and variations the virus may develop. But researchers say that even if a vaccinated person does contract a flu virus, the symptoms and potential complications will often be much less severe.


To see where to find a flu shot in your area, check out Here's a roundup of some no- and low-cost locations: 


Image: Sick child © Bananastock, age fotostockFederally qualified health centers

There are 8,500 federally qualified health centers across the United States, providing all sorts of health care, based on your ability to pay.


Community health clinics

Most communities have free or low-cost resources for people in need of health care. To find one near you, start by dialing 211, a free information service. You can also check your state's department of public health website. Depending on your income, you may be able to find a cheap or free vaccine.



You'll find flu shots in the pharmacy department of most drugstores. Most accept insurance, and some offer added benefits, such as discount coupons. Here are some prices we found when we researched this story:

  • CVS -- $31.99, plus a 20% coupon for in-store shopping.
  • Walgreens -- $31.99.
  • Rite Aid -- $29.99, plus a coupon booklet.

Many supermarkets also offer the vaccine in their pharmacies, and most accept insurance. Here are some prices we found when we researched this story:

  • Publix -- $30.
  • Safeway -- $28 to $35.
  • Kroger -- $25.
Discount and warehouse stores

Warehouse stores are places to save on more than just cereal and coffee. They also offer the best deals on flu shots. Prices when we researched this story:

  • Costco -- $16.99. This was by far the cheapest shot we found.
  • Sam's Club and Wal-Mart -- Their websites say they're offering flu immunizations only in Arizona.
  • Target -- $28.
  • Kmart -- $25.
Can you get sick from the flu vaccine?

If you think the vaccine will give you the flu, think again. This is one of the biggest myths about the flu the CDC wants to debunk. Influenza vaccines are made from an inactivated virus that cannot transmit infection. It does take up to two weeks for the vaccine to take effect and build up protection in the body, so a person can get sick during that time and mistakenly blame the vaccine. But it's not caused by the flu shot.


The nasal spray flu vaccine may cause some mild symptoms such as runny nose, cough or chills, but those symptoms don't last long. The nasal spray vaccine is available for healthy patients ages 2 to 49 who aren't pregnant. There are a few other people for whom a nasal spray vaccine isn't recommended, including those with a severe egg allergy and people with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome. 


Bottom line? Get a shot

Flu is a serious illness that can cause health complications and even death. And the single best thing you can do to avoid it is to get a flu shot, especially if you're in a high-risk group. A healthy diet, adequate exercise, rest and hygiene are also some common-sense ways to prevent infection. Frequent hand washing, especially in October through May, can go a long way.


More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:



Jan 21, 2013 5:17PM
WHY do you have VOMITING as a symptom of the flu??? Bad reporting. NOWHERE on the CDC does it report vomiting as a common symptom of the flu. Influenza is a respiratory illness.
Feb 5, 2013 12:56AM
My thing is that I like to read labels and not a single time did I get to read what's actually is in all these vaccines had to do a internet search for that,...It's scary what they are putting into us. There is a rise in ADHD, ADD, Autism, and many other illnesses. I would love if they would do a study on kids that have been vaccinated and kids who have not. I haven't as of yet been able to find an Independent study on that subject.
Jan 23, 2013 12:16AM

As a veteran, I get a flu shot annually for free at a local VA Clinic. Check with your VA on eligibility and how to get VA health care.

Jan 21, 2013 7:09PM

You could get FREE flu shots in Suny Downstate Urgent Care Center if you live in Brooklyn, NY.

 No appointment needed, you could just walk in. Call them up @ (718) 567-1400. It is formerly

Victory Memorial Hospital , located @ 699 92nd street , 7th avenue. The place is open 7days a week

 with very efficient medical personnels.

Jan 22, 2013 1:42AM
Go F**c yourself - have a flu shot today!
Mar 12, 2013 4:30PM
The fu shot is a total scam.  Is the public aware that the Affordable Care Act mandates that health care organizations force at least 90% of their employees to receive flu shots?  If  these hospitals do not meet this standard they lose a percentage of their medicaid and medicare funding.  If you don't believe me, do your research.  Many health care workers are refusing and losing their jobs.  It was recently reported that the vaccine is around 9% effective.  This is an outrage!!!  The last time I got a flu shot I became very ill from it.  I've already advised my employer that I will never have anything injected into my body that I know will cause me harm.  Thus far they haven't tried to terminate me, but I will not be pushed around.  There are many like me in the system, Doctors, Nurses, Techs, and support staff.  Prepare yourselves for staff shortages, longer waits, and incompetent new staff.  How does that sound?
Feb 28, 2013 10:07PM
The only "CHEAP SHOT"  is this article or when the bartender has his back turned.   Affordable health care act my eye ....Affordable for who?  Not the taxpayers.   
Feb 3, 2013 1:21PM
Be careful where you go. My wife got the flu shot at a grocery store and it was placed too high and she has been in pain for over a month!
Feb 8, 2013 9:02PM
Flu shots are for the very young, very old, or those with suppressed immune systems. Anyone who is healthy has NO BUSINESS getting a flu shot.
Feb 8, 2013 9:00PM
SUCKERS!!! Let them KILL YOU!!! ironically the last time I had the flu, was the last time I had a flu shot as a teenager.. HUH!!!!!!
Jan 21, 2013 5:16PM
Are you guys serious? Your pushing and promoting injecting poisons into your bodies? Its no wonder actually considering how much Big Pharma contributes to your bottom line, right? These types of promotions get me sick.  
Jan 21, 2013 5:17PM
Flu shots are a joke and don't work. My wife works with several people who are very sick with the flu and all had their shots. She did not but takes care of herself and understands good nutrition and diet and exercise and sleep..try that and don't buy the lies form the govt. and drug companies. There is plenty of other good data on this that proves it doesn't work and in several cases has been extremely harmful.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.