There are two types of influenza viruses—A and B—that are responsible for spreading the seasonal flu. These viruses infect the respiratory system, causing symptoms such as:
- sore throat
- body aches
- nasal congestion
- malaise (a general feeling of being ill)
The flu can also lead to serious health complications, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and complications related to a pre-existing condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people over the age of 65, small children, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma or diabetes) are at a greater risk for complications. In some cases, these complications can be fatal (CDC, 2011).
Why Should I Get a Flu Shot?
Many cases of the flu can be prevented with a yearly vaccine. An annual flu shot is recommended by the CDC for everyone over six months of age. High-risk groups include those with cancer, leukemia, or other conditions that compromise their immune systems, as well as the people who take care of them. However, even if you’re not at high risk, you should consider getting the flu vaccine. It can save a lot of headaches, dollars, and sick days later.
Fighting the flu has never been easier. Doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, workplaces, and even grocery stores have been offering flu vaccines in recent years. As the number of people who get the vaccine rises, the spread of the disease wanes.
It takes about two weeks after your vaccination for your body to build up enough immunity to fight the virus. The sooner you get the shot, the better—and healthier—you’ll be during flu season.
The average price of a flu shot is often between $25 and $40. Shop around for the best deal, especially if you’re paying cash and don’t have health insurance coverage. Check out these tips for saving big on a flu vaccination.
How to Seek out Free Shots
Many community groups, local businesses, and charities offer free or inexpensive flu shots each year. Call around to find the best deal. They may still require a small administration fee, but it will likely be less than the full cost at another facility.
You should try:
- your state, county, or city health department
- a walk-in health clinic
- a church or religious organization
- a school or parent-teacher organization
- a pharmacy
Free Health Clinics
Many universities with medical schools or nursing programs offer free or reduced-cost medicines and vaccinations. These programs vary by state and university, but during flu season, many offer the flu vaccine at little or no cost.
Senior Citizen Organizations
Community groups that cater to senior citizens, the homebound, or disabled individuals may offer free vaccines to people who are a part of their program. Many of these organizations are free, so joining would save you the cost of the vaccine too.
Save at the Corner Store
Call your local supermarkets and pharmacies to check for incentives, discounts, or coupons that may reduce or help offset the cost of a vaccination. For example, people who get their flu shot at CVS receive a 20-percent-off shopping pass with a flu shot.
Some companies offer their employees free or reduced-cost flu vaccines as part of a health-screening clinic each fall. The math makes sense: they pay for your vaccine so you don’t use as many sick days. A flu vaccine also may prevent many expensive trips to the doctor later.
Use Your Insurance
Some insurance plans with preventive care coverage pay for flu vaccines. Others require a co-pay between $5 and $30. Call your insurance provider to see what your policy offers.