Flu shots are more critical than ever this year, with the COVID-19 Delta variant causing another peak in COVID cases nationwide. Getting your flu shot in addition to your COVID-19 vaccine can help prevent you from becoming sick this winter. You can get your flu vaccine at many places, including your doctor’s office, local pharmacy, or an urgent care center. Many locations offer free flu shots; however, you may be charged a fee at some facilities if you do not have insurance.
Where To Get a Free Flu Shot
We have identified several places you can get a free flu shot this season. It is important to note that there are a few different types of flu shots offered this season.
The quadrivalent flu shot protects against four different strains of the flu and is offered at most locations. Some locations also provide a higher-dose flu shot, called the Fluzone High-Dose, which is recommended for people over 65 to get better protection against the flu. Some facilities also offer a nasal spray quadrivalent flu vaccine, called Flumist Quadrivalent.
Your doctor’s office
A survey conducted around this time last year by SingleCare indicated 37% of people get their flu shot from their doctor’s office. Most doctor’s offices will cover the total cost of your flu shot if you have insurance.
Be sure to call your doctor to see if your insurance will cover the cost of your flu shot before going in. If you do not have insurance, you may be charged a visit fee and for the cost of the vaccine itself. The cost of the visit fee will vary depending on the doctor’s office.
Various pharmacies offer free flu shots for those with health insurance or low-cost flu shots for those who are uninsured. Some require an appointment, while others are walk-in clinics, so be sure to check whether an appointment is necessary at your pharmacy.
Pharmacies with Free or Low-Cost Flu Vaccines
|Pharmacy||Cost with insurance||Cost without insurance|
Urgent Care Centers
Some people choose to go to urgent care centers for flu vaccines because they are generally open for longer hours than a doctor’s office. If you can’t make it to your primary care physician during normal business hours, getting vaccinated at your local urgent care clinic is a good alternative.
If you have insurance, you can likely walk into an urgent care center and get vaccinated for free; however, if you do not have insurance, you may need to pay for the cost of the vaccine and administration fees. If you do not have insurance or have a high deductible health plan, a membership with Mira can help you access urgent care services, including vaccinations, for an affordable price.
It is a good idea to call ahead to ensure you will not have to pay any surprise fees when getting a flu shot at an urgent care. Some urgent care centers in NYC offering flu shots are:
Large employers may bring flu vaccines to the office to help protect their employees from getting sick and subsequently missing work. This year it may be less common for employees to offer vaccinations since many companies operate remotely.
If you go to work in person, ask your employer if they will be hosting a flu vaccination site this year. Most employers offer flu shots for a small fee.
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Less than half of college students get the flu vaccine yearly despite campus health centers offering free flu shots for college students. If you are a current college student, log on to your campus health portal to see where flu shots are provided on campus.
Most colleges that offer the flu shot will do so for free or for a small fee depending on your insurance status.
Your Local Health Department
Each year about 2,000 new yorkers die from the flu, but getting vaccinated can reduce your chance of getting very sick from the flu. There are many locations where you can get a flu shot for free in New York City.
The NYC Department of Health also created a locator for New York City residents to find flu vaccines locally.
A membership with Mira may qualify you for a free flu shot at your local urgent care center. Starting at $45 per month, Mira offers low-cost urgent care appointments, lab testing, and discounted prescriptions. Call (856) 770-2360 today to see if Mira is a good fit for you.
This year it is very important to understand your symptoms to differentiate between a cold, the flu, and COVID-19. There is much overlap between the symptoms you may experience if you have the flu and COVID-19.
Common flu symptoms include:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
*It’s important to note that not everyone with the flu will have a fever.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should go to a doctor and will most likely be tested for COVID-19 and the flu. If you feel sick, it is important to identify which of these viruses you may have, as the treatments, quarantine periods, and the length of time you can spread the viruses are different.
Public Health Measures Work Against the Flu
Last year there were fewer flu cases in the United States than ever before. Epidemiologists and public health officials feared a “twindemic” of COVID-19 and influenza, which could overwhelm hospital systems once again.
Last year's mild flu season can be attributed to flu vaccine uptake, reduced movement (travel), social distancing, and mask-wearing. If we continue these efforts, we can protect ourselves against the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously. If we continue to practice these public health measures, it is possible to lessen the impact of flu season and COVID-19significantly reduce.
New Flu Cases in the U.S. from January 2020 through March 2021
Note: Figures reflect weekly totals of positive flu tests from public and clinical laboratories.·Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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Flu Shot Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The CDC reports the flu vaccine can reduce your risk of contracting the flu by 40-60%. Below we answer a few common questions regarding the flu vaccine.
When should I get the flu shot?
You should get the flu shot in September or October. The flu shot takes a few weeks to give you protection from influenza viruses, so it is crucial to get the flu shot in the early fall before it starts spreading more rapidly during the colder months.
Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?
Influenza viruses are constantly changing, so the vaccine is updated annually to target the most common strains each year. Influenza surveillance centers monitor and collect data to identify new and evolving strains.
Each February, the World Health Organization advises which strains will likely spread in the coming flu season to begin vaccine development. This year’s vaccine includes four strains of the flu virus that scientists expect to circulate.
Is it possible to get the flu and COVID at the same time?
Yes. It is possible to get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time since different viruses cause them. The flu vaccine does not prevent COVID-19, and COVID-19 vaccines do not protect you from the flu. Therefore, it is essential to get vaccinated against both viruses to protect yourself from getting sick this winter.
The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get a flu vaccine this year. Individuals over 12 years of age are currently eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which is approved by the FDA.
Can I get both the flu shot and COVID-19 booster?
According to the CDC, it is safe to get both the COVID-19 vaccine and any other vaccine, including the flu shot, at the same time. If you get both shots simultaneously, the CDC advises that the injection sites should be at least 1 inch apart.
There is no evidence that side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine will be any better or worse if administered at the same time as the flu shot.
There are many ways to get vaccinated against the flu today. As the weather gets colder, there will likely be a rise in flu cases, but we can minimize the spread by getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu.
There are many locations where you can get vaccinated against the flu for free or low cost. If you need help finding a flu vaccine appointment, call our team at Mira today.
Alexis Bryan MPH, is a recent graduate of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. She is passionate about increasing access to care to improve health outcomes. Outside of work, she loves to travel, read, and pay too much attention to her plants.