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Walgreens offers free flu shots

The company will give away 300,000 vouchers for free shots through local public health agencies.

By Giselle Smith Nov 30, 2011 5:13PM

Have you gotten your flu shot yet? If cost has been holding you back, you may be in luck.

For the second year in a row, Walgreens is offering $10 million in free flu shots to people who can't afford them or whose health insurance won't cover the shots, the Chicago Tribune says. Vouchers for 300,000 free shots will be distributed.

Vouchers are available on a first-come, first-served basis through local public health departments and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Do you need a shot?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends annual flu shots for people older than 6 months. But fewer than half of Americans got vaccinations in 2010, ABC News reported.


It is especially important for people in high-risk situations to get shots, the CDC advises, including:

  • Pregnant women.
  • Children under the age of 2.
  • People over the age of 50.
  • People with certain chronic medical conditions.
  • People who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk of complications from the flu.

However, a small study in the Netherlands, recently published in the Journal of Virology, indicates that the flu vaccine may weaken some children's immune systems by preventing them from building antibodies. Researchers from the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam studied a small group of vaccinated and unvaccinated children with an average age of 6 years old, ABC News reported. Post continues below.

Another study, published in October in the medical journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases, indicated that flu vaccines are not as effective as previously thought, and the most commonly used vaccine is successful for only about 59% of adults aged 18 to 65. The study, from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, analyzed data from 31 studies published in medical journals between 1967 and 2011, The Washington Post reported.

More reliable is a newer nasal spray flu vaccine, which the Minnesota researchers found to be 83% effective in children ages 6 months to 7 years.

Although flu shots may leave us somewhat vulnerable to infection, they are still the best protection currently available, researchers concluded.


How to get the Walgreens vouchers

If you want to take advantage of the Walgreens offer, contact your local health department for information.

Local public health officials have begun distributing vouchers through health agencies, community partner organizations and other outreach efforts. Each voucher is good for a flu shot at one of more than 7,700 locations, including Walgreens pharmacies, Take Care Clinics and Duane Reade pharmacies in New York. No appointments are necessary for flu shots during pharmacy and clinic hours.

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