Where to Get the Flu Shot in Your Area and How to Get It for Free

Flu season has started, but officials stress it's still not too late to get vaccinated to help protect against the potentially nasty bug.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone aged six months old and above get the flu shot, stating it's the "first and most important step in protecting against influenza and its potentially serious complications."

It is best to get vaccinated before the virus has started spreading in your community, according to the CDC, as it can take around two weeks for the antibodies that protect against the flu to build up in the body.

But Kristen Nordlund, a spokesperson for the CDC, told Newsweek: "Vaccination is always the best protection against flu. And it's not too late to get vaccinated."

The national public health institute provides a Flu Vaccine Finder on its website, which points users in the direction of their nearest clinic according to their ZipCode. This page can also be used to find clinics that offer vaccines for other conditions including Hepatitis A and B, HPV, MMR, Shingles, Tdap and Td, as well as Meningococcal, Pneumococcal and Varicella jabs.

Those with medical insurance can get vaccinated for free, including at CVS—which offers walk-in slots—Walmart and Walgreens. Individuals using the Affordable Care Act or Medicare B can get a free shot at their doctor's office.

Some stores offer incentives like gift cards, including $10 at Publix, $5 at Target and 10 percent off groceries at Safeway. Depending on your location, it may also be possible to be vaccinated free through your local county health department. For those who do have to pay, shots start at around $20.

This season, manufacturers will distribute up to an estimated 169 million doses of the flu vaccine, according to the CDC.

It's not possible to predict how effective a flu vaccine will be, as this can be impacted by factors including which virus is circulating and whether the vaccine matches, as well as the age and health status of the person receiving it. But the CDC states vaccines usually cut the risk of catching the flu by 40 to 60 percent in the general population.

During the 2017 to 2018 season, the CDC estimated shots prevented 5,700 flu-related deaths, 6.2 million illnesses, 3.2 million medical visits, and 91,000 hospitalizations.

CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund told Newsweek flu activity is forecast to increase for the next few weeks, with a 40 percent chance it will peak in December, "which would be relatively early compared to most seasons."

Asked whether this season will hit harder than normal, Nordlund said: "Influenza is unpredictable. While flu spreads every year, the timing, severity, and length of the season varies from one season to another and can vary in different parts of the country during the season."

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A woman sneezes in a stock image. The CDC recommends everyone above the age of six months gets the flu shot. Getty
Where to Get the Flu Shot in Your Area and How to Get It for Free | Health