If there was ever a year to get the flu shot, this is it.
The CDC says it believes that the flu virus and the coronavirus will both be spreading across the United States throughout fall and winter.
Having two potentially deadly viruses that share some of the same symptoms makes getting the flu vaccine more important than ever this year — especially since there isn’t a vaccine yet for COVID-19.
But getting vaccinated doesn’t have to be expensive. Here’s where to get a flu shot for cheap or free — plus where you could actually snag a little extra spending money by taking your shot.
Where to Get a Free or Low-Cost Flu Shot
The annual flu vaccine can help protect you from getting the flu and reduce the severity if you do contract it.
The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older — and the timing is just right to get yours now.
That’s because getting it early — like July or August — reduces the likelihood you’ll be protected later in the flu season. September and October are the ideal times to get vaccinated, although the CDC notes that you can get a vaccine so long as the flu virus is circulating.
If you have health insurance, you’ll likely be able to get a free flu shot. But even if you don’t have insurance, you can still find affordable — and sometimes free — options.
Under the Affordable Care Act, all marketplace insurance plans must cover the cost of the vaccine. However, check your plan for details, as some set limitations on where you can get the shot for free.
Ready to protect yourself from the influenza virus? Here’s where to go for your shot.
1. Local Retailers, Grocery Stores and Pharmacies
Just by showing your insurance card, you can get a free flu shot at many places you’re already visiting, which makes this a convenient option for most people.
Ask your provider if they are following CDC’s vaccination pandemic guidance. Any vaccination location following CDC’s guidance should be a safe place to get a flu vaccine.
If you don’t have insurance, you can typically get the shot for less than $50, and some places are even sweetening the deal by offering coupons for future purchases:
- Costco. You don’t need to be a member of the warehouse club to use a Costco pharmacy. And even if you don’t have insurance, you can get a flu vaccine starting at $19.99. Walk-ins are welcome, or you can click here to book an appointment online.
- CVS. Get your flu shot at CVS pharmacy or its Minute Clinic, and you could get a $5 coupon off your next purchase of $20 or more through Oct. 31. Click here for the details and to schedule an appointment.
- Kroger. You can make an appointment to get a flu shot at all of Kroger Health’s 2,200 pharmacies and 223 Little Clinics across 35 states. Click here to book online.
- Publix. The grocery chain typically welcomes walk-up flu shot appointments, but this year it is also offering an online service that allows customers to schedule an appointment and sign consent forms ahead of time, which you can do by clicking here. The grocery chain is offering a $10 coupon with your flu shot.
- Rite Aid. Flu shots at the pharmacy chain are available without insurance for $39.99. No appointment is necessary, but click here for the consent form you should bring with you.
- Safeway. Although no appointment is necessary, the grocery chain recommends filling out this consent form before you visit. It could really be worth your trouble — you get 10% off your next grocery trip with an immunization.
- Target. Stop by a CVS pharmacy at Target — walk in or schedule an appointment — and you could walk away with a $5 coupon for your next Target purchase (check here for state restrictions).
- Walgreens. Get a coupon for $5 off your next $20 purchase at the pharmacy chain when you get a flu shot through Nov. 30. You can either walk in or schedule an appointment here.
- Walmart. In response to the pandemic, the retailer launched a digital scheduler via the Walmart mobile app. And all Walmart employees will be able to get flu shots at the retailer’s pharmacies for free — regardless of their insurance status. It’s also offering a special pharmacy hour from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. on Tuesdays for seniors and those at-risk.
2. Your Doctor and Urgent Care Clinics
If you have health insurance, you can get a free flu shot at a variety of places, including your doctor and urgent care clinics.
While the shot may be free, the office visit may not be — check before you make an appointment or show up at a clinic.
3. Your Workplace
If your office closed due to the pandemic, your employer might not be offering free flu shots this year. However, if you’re still showing up to work, it doesn’t hurt to ask your human resources department if your company would sponsor an on-site flu vaccination.
4. Your College Campus
If campus is open, there’s a good chance your college is still offering free flu shots to college students. Most times, all you’ll need is your student ID.
5. Community Health Centers
Community-based health centers are available in areas with limited access to affordable health care services. They provide services regardless of a patients’ ability to pay and charge for services on a sliding scale.
Depending on where you live, your local health center may offer free flu shots, regardless of your insurance status. Locate a center near you by clicking here.
6. VA Health Centers
If you’re a veteran enrolled in the VA health care system, you can get a flu shot for free at a VA health care facility or an in-network retail pharmacy or urgent care location near you. Just present a valid, government-issued identification and this flyer.
And if none of these places work for you, check with VaccineFinder.org for vaccination locations near you. Regardless of where you choose, get your shot before flu season hits.
Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at Codetic. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.