As people age, their risk for complications from the flu (influenza) increases. Luckily, for those enrolled in Medicare, Medicare and Medicare Advantage cover the total cost of one flu shot per flu season.

For people aged 65 and older, Medicare will cover 100 percent of the Medicare-approved cost of flu shots that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This includes the high-dose flu vaccine, which stimulates a stronger immune system response than the regular flu vaccine. Medicare doesn’t include nasal mist flu vaccines, as they’re not approved for older adults.

Medicare covers administrative costs, such as the cost of a doctor’s visit, that might be associated with getting a flu shot.

In order to get 100 percent coverage for this service, you must get your flu shot from a Medicare-enrolled provider.

This provider can be a medical doctor, or other type of qualified healthcare provider, including pharmacists. If you use a pharmacist, you must get your flu shot at a Medicare-enrolled pharmacy to ensure complete financial coverage.

No deductibles, coinsurance, or copays for either Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage apply to flu shots or to their associated administrative costs.

Medicare pays for one flu shot per flu season, which is in keeping with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendations for people 65 and older. The flu season can begin as early as October, and it may last into April.

If your doctor recommends that you receive more than one flu shot during any given calendar year, Medicare may or may not cover some or all of the costs of this additional service.

However, in order to ensure that you’re safe from flu for an entire flu season, Medicare may be likely to cover the cost of a second shot if your first flu shot was given very early in the calendar year. A second flu shot will require a doctor’s recommendation.

Medicare Part B covers preventive services and is the part of Original Medicare that covers flu shots. Since no deductibles, coinsurance, or copays apply to flu shots, Medigap coverage for this service isn’t required.

All Medicare Advantage plans are required to provide at least the same level of services that Original Medicare does. Therefore, they provide coverage for any flu shot that’s FDA-approved, for people who are eligible and enrolled in Medicare.

Where to get a flu shot
  • You can get a flu shot from any Medicare-enrolled provider.
  • Find Medicare doctors and clinics here.
  • Any pharmacy that accepts Medicare Part D will be able to provide you with a flu shot that Medicare covers.
  • Call your local pharmacy, or look up your pharmacy online to find out if they’re a Medicare-approved facility.

The flu can be dangerous for anyone, but seniors are at heightened risk for complications, such as pneumonia.

According to the CDC, around 90 percent of flu-related deaths and 50 to 75 percent of flu-related hospitalizations occur among people who are 65 and up. These risks increase even further in people 85 and older.

Since the flu is a respiratory illness, it’s vitally important for anyone who has COPD, asthma, or lung disease to get a flu shot, as the flu can exacerbate these conditions.

People with other types of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, can become very sick or die from flu. One large study found that getting the flu caused increased rates of in-hospital morbidity and mortality among people with heart failure.

A 2013 review of randomized clinical trials found that getting a flu shot lessened the occurrence and severity of cardiovascular events.

Even a mild case of flu can make you feel miserable and keep you bedridden for a week or longer.

Flu symptoms include headaches, severe body aches, fever, dizziness, and more. Getting a flu shot can help reduce your chances of getting the flu and feeling very sick.

Flu is very contagious. Getting a flu shot also reduces your chances of giving the flu to vulnerable people who can’t get the flu shot, such as children under 6 months old.

The flu shot can cause minor side effects in some people. These include:

  • redness, soreness, or swelling at the injection site
  • low-grade fever
  • headache
  • muscle aches

What the flu vaccine can’t cause is the flu. The flu vaccine is either made from inactivated flu virus or from a single flu gene, instead of the full virus. Neither of these can give you the flu.

According to the CDC, the benefits of getting a flu shot far outweigh the risks, for most people over 65. This includes people who are allergic to eggs.

Current CDC recommendations are that people who are allergic to eggs should get a flu shot. Most flu shots are made with eggs, although there are several that are not.

Talk to your doctor about the type of flu shot that’s most appropriate for you.

who should not get a flu shot

There are high risk groups of people who should not get the flu shot:

  • If you’ve had a severe reaction to a flu shot in the past, talk to your doctor about whether or not the benefits of getting a vaccine outweigh the risks.
  • If you have a life threatening or severe allergy to the flu vaccine or an ingredient it contains, such as gelatin or antibiotics, you shouldn’t get the flu shot.
  • Some people with a rare condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome shouldn’t get the flu shot.

The flu is serious and potentially dangerous for people over 65. It’s also highly contagious. Getting a flu shot once a year at the start of the flu season is your best way of avoiding the flu.

For most people, getting a flu vaccine far outweighs the risks.

Medicare Part B and Medicare Advantage cover the total cost of one annual flu shot for people who are eligible and enrolled in Medicare.

In order to ensure that your flu vaccine is covered completely, use a Medicare-enrolled provider.