Every year, 5 to 20% of the population gets the flu. The virus usually takes hold during the fall and winter months and can peak between November and March. If you haven’t already done so, you might need to get vaccinated soon to avoid getting sick. Being on a tight budget is not an excuse, especially since there are several places where you can get the vaccine for next to nothing.
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1. A Doctor in Your Network
Under the Affordable Care Act, just about everyone is required to have health insurance. Without coverage, you could be forced to pay a penalty when you file your tax return and determine what you owe the IRS for the year. One of the benefits of having insurance is that in most cases you’re eligible to receive a free flu shot.
As long as the physician you visit is within your plan’s network, you likely won’t have to pay anything at all (except for maybe a small copay). Seniors who have Medicare can also qualify for a free flu shot every year under part B of their insurance plan.
2. Your Job
On the off chance that your insurance plan doesn’t allow you to get vaccinated free of charge, you might have access to a seasonal flu shot at your workplace. Some employers provide complimentary vaccines, recognizing that an outbreak among a few key employees could potentially set an entire company back and reduce both productivity and revenue.
3. The Nearest Drugstore or Grocery Store
If you have insurance and you don’t have time to make a doctor’s appointment, you can always walk in and get a flu shot at your local pharmacy or drugstore. Certain supermarkets and businesses like Target, Walgreens, CVS, Costco, Rite Aid and Sams Club offer the flu vaccine and other immunizations. Flu.gov and flushot.healthmap.org are two websites that can point you in the direction of the closest flu clinics.
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Most of the time, the vaccine is free as long as you have your insurance card. Even with insurance, though, you might have to pay a copay, pay towards your deductible and/or fork over money in coinsurance, especially if you’re getting multiple immunizations at the same time. If you don’t have health insurance or you have a policy that excludes pharmacy flu vaccines from its list of benefits, you could have to pay anywhere between $15 and $30 for the shot. When you think about the number of days you might miss by getting the flu, however, that might not seem like such a bad deal.
4. Your Local Health Clinic
Some health centers run by the state or federal government have free flu shots available. Many community-based clinics also have free or cheap vaccines to give out to the general public. If you’re a college student in need of health care and you won’t get a chance to see your primary care physician back home, your campus might have a health center that provides flu vaccines for free.
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A Final Word
Experts recommend that everyone who’s at least six months old get a flu shot once a year. Pregnant women, those with respiratory diseases and folks over the age of 64 are particularly vulnerable to the virus. Besides washing your hands frequently and keeping your hands away from your mouth, eyes and nose, getting the flu shot or the nasal spray vaccine is the best way to avoid falling ill.
There are multiple places that offer the vaccine at little or no cost to you. Since the virus can start circulating as early as October, it’s a good idea to get the shot as soon as you can. Better late than never, though.
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