How to Get a Flu Shot at Rite Aid

A flu vaccine is your best protection against the flu. Rite Aid and other retailers offer them. Here's how to get your Rite Aid flu shot.

Getting the Rite Aid flu shot

Getting a flu shot is one of the best things you can do for yourself, for others, and for a health care system already overburdened due to the pandemic. Unlike the Covid-19 vaccine, which will be available to most people next year, the flu vaccine is available right now at retailers nationwide, including Rite Aid pharmacies. If you haven’t already, it’s not too late to get the flu vaccine. (Here’s the difference between Covid-19 symptoms vs. flu symptoms.)

“There is no downside to taking the flu vaccine,” says Theodore Strange, MD, interim chair of medicine at Staten Island University Hospital in Staten Island, New York. “It’s a preventable disease and even if you get the flu it will minimize the disease.”

The more people who get the flu vaccine, the more likely communities will achieve herd immunity which is when enough people in an area get vaccinated to protect those who aren’t. There is a higher demand for flu shots this year but, so far, there seem to be enough vaccines to go around, Dr. Strange says.

Is the vaccine effective?

The influenza virus mutates rapidly which means that the strains you see this year are different from those that were circulating last year. Scientists change the vaccine each year in response, doing their best to match the vaccine to the strains.

But the vaccine is never 100 percent effective (actually, no vaccine is). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the flu vaccine is, on average, 40 percent to 60 percent effective each year.

Is the vaccine safe?

People have been getting the flu vaccine for half a century and it rarely produces a serious reaction. (Here’s how to deal with flu shot pain.)

“Any vaccination has some side effects but it’s so rare the benefit clearly outweighs the risk,” says Dr. Strange. Some minor side effects include a sore arm, the sniffles, and a low fever, but you cannot get the flu from the vaccine, he emphasizes. “The proteins used in the vaccine may result in some local inflammatory response but nothing like the flu,” he says.

Any stories you may have heard about the vaccine causing the flu or autism are just flu myths.

Some people are allergic to ingredients in the vaccine, like eggs, but only 20 percent of today’s flu vaccines are grown in eggs, according to the CDC. Long ago, there were reports after flu shots of Guillain-Barré syndrome (a neurological disorder where the immune system attacks the nerves), but that has not been proven.

Who should get the vaccine?

Everyone over the age of 6 months should get a flu vaccine. Certain groups are strongly urged to get a vaccine as they are at a higher risk of complications or even death if they come down with the flu, says the CDC. These include people 65 years and over (immune systems often wane with age) as well as people who are at a higher risk of complications such as those with asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. Pregnant women and children under 5 also fall into this category.

If you know you’re allergic to eggs or another possible ingredient in a flu vaccine, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before getting the vaccine. The same goes for people who have had Guillain-Barré syndrome and anyone who thinks they are currently sick. (Beware of these deadly flu signs.)

What kind of vaccines are available?

There is more than one flu vaccine, explains Dr. Strange. A nasal spray can be an option for younger people but it can’t be given to people who have suppressed immune systems or anyone over 50.  There’s also an egg-free vaccine called Flublok for people over 18.

A high-dose flu vaccine is recommended for people over 65. “There’s a protein in it that causes more of an immune response,” says Dr. Strange.

All the vaccines this year are quadrivalent, meaning they protect against four strains of the virus, he adds. (Here’s what you need to know about the flu virus.)

When is the best time to get a flu vaccine?

The North American flu season typically begins in October, peaking between December or February though it can last longer. The best time to get a flu vaccine is early fall, according to the CDC. That time has already passed for the 2020-2021 season, but it’s not too late.

It takes two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective so now is still a good time for a flu vaccine. (Remember,  it’s never too late for the flu shot.)

rite aid flu shot illustrationthehealthy.com, via riteaid.com, Getty Images

How do I get a flu vaccine at Rite Aid?

Rite Aid is offering flu vaccines seven days a week at all 2,400 locations in 17 states. You don’t need to make an appointment and, while you’re there, you may want to think about other vaccines you might need. Most insurance plans, including Medicare Part B, will pay for flu vaccines with no copay.

Shots cost $39.99 for those who don’t have insurance or who don’t have plans that will cover the price. To save time, fill out an immunization evaluation and screening questionnaire and consent forms before your visit. For people 65 and older, the chain is offering the high-dose vaccine FLUAD. The egg-free vaccine Flublok is available for adults.

What should I expect when I get to the store?

All Rite Aid stores are following public-health guidelines to limit the spread of Covid-19. All customers are required to wear a face mask. The person giving the shot will also be wearing a mask or face shield, and the area where vaccinations are given are sanitized after each shot.

Next, here’s how you can tell the difference between a cold and the flu.

Sources

Amanda Gardner
Amanda Gardner is a freelance health reporter whose stories have appeared in cnn.com, health.com, cnn.com, WebMD, HealthDay, Self Magazine, the New York Daily News, Teachers & Writers Magazine, the Foreign Service Journal, AmeriQuests (Vanderbilt University) and others. In 2009, she served as writer-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. She is also a community artist and recipient or partner in five National Endowment for the Arts grants.