Where to Get Your Free (or Cheap) Flu Shots

By Trisha Sherven

NEW YORK (MoneyTalksNews) —If you’ve ever had the flu, you know how awful it is — high fever, muscle aches, chills, vomiting. You feel like you’ve been run over by a truck.

According to a 2007 study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu costs employers $10.5 billion every flu season in expenses related to medical care, missed work and reduced productivity.

Once you’ve got the it, antibiotics won’t help — they’re for bacterial infections, not viruses such as the flu. So the best medicine is prevention, including such common-sense things as washing your hands, avoiding contact with people to whatever extent possible and, especially, getting vaccinated.

The CDC recommends everyone ages 6 months and older get an annual flu shot, as well as those in high-risk groups such as children younger than 5, especially those less than 2, adults age 65 and older, pregnant women, native Americans, Alaskan natives and anyone with a disease compromising the immune system.

One of the best ways to prevent the flu is to get the influenza vaccine — a flu shot — every year. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most private insurance is required to cover preventive care, which includes vaccinations, at no cost: no co-pay, no deductible. The same is true for those covered by Medicare Part B.

How effective is it?

According to the CDC, this year’s flu vaccine is about 60% effective in preventing influenza infection. Part of the reason flu shots can’t be 100% effective is that they’re developed months before flu season, so they can’t cover all strains and variations the virus may develop. But researchers say even if a vaccinated person does contract a flu virus, the symptoms and potential complications will often be much less severe.

To see where to find a flu shot in your area, check out flushot.healthmap.org.

Where to get free flu shots

Federally Qualified Health Centers: There are 8,500 Federally Qualified Health Centers across the United States, providing all sorts of health care, based on your ability to pay. See Can’t Afford Health Insurance? Here’s What to Do for information.