From local pharmacies to college campuses, there are plenty of options for free flu shots (and zero excuses to not get vaccinated).

By Julia Guerra
October 16, 2019

Once autumn rolls around, flu season isn't too far behind. October officially kicks off flu season, and the sooner you get vaccinated, the better, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Granted, it's not exactly the most thrilling fall activity, but look on the bright side: Unlike pumpkins and apples, you can get the flu shot for free.

Flu season typically lasts from October through March and sometimes trickles into early April, says Niket Sonpal, M.D., an internist and gastroenterologist based in New York City. However, the 2018-2019 flu season lasted through May, catching many health experts off-guard, he adds. "Flu activity tends to peak between December and February but can last as late as May," explains Dr. Sonpal, though the CDC recommends that people get vaccinated by late October.

Of course, you can still get vaccinated later on in the season—but with free flu shots at your disposal, why wait?

Where can you get free flu shots?

Free flu shots are easier to find than you might think. If you're a college student, most colleges offer free flu shots on-campus, while many employers offer free flu shots to their staff, says Dr. Sonpal. (Related: Are There Any Flu Shot Side Effects You Should Watch Out For?)

Free flu shots are also available at your local pharmacies and some grocery stores. CVS and MinuteClinic locations in Target, for example, offer free flu shots every day at no cost through most health insurance policies and with no appointment necessary, according to a CVS representative. (You'll even get a coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase when you get the flu shot in most states, according to the rep. Score!)

Walgreens offers free flu shots through most health insurance policies, as well. You can get vaccinated during pharmacy and clinic hours every day without an appointment. The pharmacy is also currently running its "Get A Shot. Give A Shot" campaign: For every shot administered at a Walgreens pharmacy or health-care clinic between now and January 31, 2020, Walgreens will donate a vaccine to a child in need, "up to an aggregate donation value of $2.6 million," says Rina Shah, pharmacy operations group vice president of Walgreens. (Related: Can You Get the Flu Twice In One Season?)

Wholesale clubs like Sam's Club and Costco offer free flu vaccinations, too—and you don't even have to be a member to get one, adds Dr. Sonpal. Military veterans enrolled in healthcare through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can also receive a free vaccination at Veterans Affairs health-care facilities. (Note: The program does not apply to family members, says Dr. Sonpal.)

Lastly, if you're insured through the Affordable Care Act, Medicare Part B, and/or most other insurance plans, the flu shot might be free through your primary care provider, Tori Marsh, M.P.H. writes in a blog post for GoodRx. However, every doctor is different, and you might still have to pay a fee for the visit. Be sure to check your health insurance policy before making an appointment.

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