Flu Shot FAQ

November 2, 2010

It’s November, which means red cups at Starbucks, holiday decorations everywhere, and lots of people coming down with the flu. The first two things can be avoided if they don’t suit you, but the flu is pretty much a given…or is it? Newer, better flu shots are available. If you’re considering one, here’s what you need to know:

How Much do Flu Shots Cost?

  • If you have insurance, check to see if shots are covered, if they are (Blue Cross Blue Shield and CIGNA are among those providers who cover them), they’re usually part of your wellness or preventive care benefits.
  • If insurance covers your flu shot, you may be able to skip the usual co-pay by going to a local pharmacy. If you go to your regular physician, the usual co-pay will apply.
  • No insurance? No problem! The typical price range for the flu shot is between $5 and $30, but varies by location.
  • Drugstores often offer discounts of $5 (or more) for flu shots.
  • Some employers provide free or discounted flu shots to their employees.

What Comes With the Flu Shot?
Flu shots are usually injected into your upper arm. They contain inactive virus for the three strains of influenza expected to be most common in the year the shot is given. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publish a FAQ about flu shots.

If you’re over the age of 65, have a chronic illness (including both types of diabetes) or any kind of immunosuppression, you may want to consider a pneumonia vaccination as well. These are covered by health insurance if you fall into any high-risk category, and otherwise range in price from $10 to $40. Anecdotal evidence points to the pneumonia vaccine as also helping people avoid bronchitis, but this is not proven data.

Flu Shot Shopping Tips

  • You can get a flu shot from your doctor or local health clinic, as well as from many drugstores, supermarket pharmacies, and even some community organizations.
  • Don’t like needles? If you’re healthy, not pregnant, and between the ages of five and 49, there is a nasal flu vaccination.
  • While vaccinations are available to anyone who wants to reduce the likelihood of getting the flu, those people who are at risk for flu-related complications, and anyone who cares for or lives with them are strongly recommended to get the flu shot.
  • If you are allergic to eggs, have had an allergic reaction to a flu shot in the past, are ill, or have a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome, consult your doctor before getting your flu shot.
  • Side effects of the shot may include soreness or redness at the injection site, a low-grade fever, aches and pains, and (rarely) allergic reactions.