How to Get a Flu Shot at CVS

Flu season is here and it's not too late to get your flu shot. CVS is offering vaccines around the nation. Here's how to get a flu shot at CVS, including how much it costs.

Getting the flu shot at CVS

Flu season is here and, this year, it’s colliding with another potentially life-threatening infection: Covid-19. That makes it more important than ever to protect yourself as much as possible by getting a flu vaccine.

“Recovering from the flu and then getting Covid-19 or vice versa could be devastating,” says Alexa Mieses Malchuk, MD, a practicing family physician in Durham, North Carolina.

“We cannot protect you from Covid-19 with a vaccine (not yet), but we can protect you from the flu,” says Dr. Mieses Malchuk, who’s also an assistant professor, department of family medicine, UNC School of Family Medicine, Chapel Hill. (Here’s a DIY flu-fighting kit to keep at home.)

Not only does the flu vaccine protect you, it also protects others, she adds. (Find out more about differences between flu symptoms and Covid-19 symptoms.)

Here’s what you need to know about this year’s vaccine, including its effectiveness, side effects, and how much is the flu shot at CVS. (Live near a Costco? Here’s how you can get the Costco flu shot.)

Where can I get a flu shot?

You can get the vaccine in medical settings like your doctor’s office, certain workplaces that are still open, and at retailers across the country, including CVS which has nearly 10,000 locations, including 1,100 MinuteClinics. These are walk-in medical clinics located inside certain CVS and Target locations.

Given that flu season has already started, the best time to get a shot is right now. It takes two weeks for the vaccine to fully take effect.

cvs pharmacy flu shot illustrationthehealthy.com, via cvshealth.com, Getty Images

Who should get the flu vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccine every year. People who are at a higher risk of complications from the flu are even more strongly urged to get a vaccine. This includes those 65 and over, pregnant women, children under 5, and people with certain chronic conditions like asthma.

If you’re allergic to eggs, have had Guillain-Barré syndrome in the past, or are presently sick, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before getting vaccinated. Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare type of autoimmune-related paralysis that can be triggered by infections.

Is the vaccine safe?

“The flu vaccine is safe,” says Dr. Mieses Malchuk. “The most common side effect is muscle soreness where the shot was given. If the vaccine is doing its job—which is to stimulate the immune system—you may also feel achy or tired.”

This does not mean you’re sick, she stresses. Because the flu shot doesn’t contain any live virus, it can’t give you the actual flu. It also doesn’t cause autism or any other illness, despite continuing rumors to the contrary. (Learn more about flu myths doctors wish you would stop believing.)

What types of vaccines are available?

There is more than one flu shot, so it can be challenging to decide which one to get. Flu shots are by far the most common flu vaccine available, although there is also a nasal spray. You can get the spray if you’re healthy, between the ages of 2 to 49, and if you aren’t pregnant.

Almost all vaccines this year are quadrivalent, which means they protect against four different strains of the flu virus. It’s important that you get a new flu vaccine every year. That’s because the specific virus strains change every year. Last season’s vaccine won’t protect you against this season’s virus. (Learn more about the flu virus.)

CVS Pharmacy and MinuteClinics are offering the standard quadrivalent flu vaccine as well as the high-dose flu vaccine, which is for adults 65 and over.

Adults 18 and older who are allergic to eggs can also get the Flublok quadrivalent, says Linda Molaka, pharmacy manager at CVS Pharmacy. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which is best for you.

How effective is the vaccine?

This varies from season to season because the vaccine itself changes each year. If the vaccine and the virus strains are a good match, the vaccine should be between 40 percent and 60 percent effective, says the CDC. If you do get sick even after a vaccine, chances are your illness will be much milder.

The CDC estimates that every year the flu hospitalizes 140,000 to 810,000 people and kills between 12,000 and 61,000. The vaccine may save 6,300 lives annually.

How much is a flu shot at CVS?

To get a flu shot, visit any CVS Pharmacy or MinuteClinic with or without an appointment. You can make an appointment at the CVS website, using the CVS app, or by texting FLU to 287898. You can answer questions online and you’ll get a confirmation email which has a link you can use to check in once you get to the store.

CVS also accepts walk-in patients, but check with individual stores to confirm. The vaccine is available at no cost through most insurance plans, including Medicare B. If you’re uninsured, the seasonal flu shot will cost you $31.99.

What Covid-19 precautions is CVS taking?

“We have taken steps to ensure that our colleagues and all our customers, including seniors, feel safe during immunizations,” says Molaka. That includes fewer touchpoints when you go in and adherence to CDC guidelines. Before receiving your shot, you’ll need to fill out a Covid-19 screening questionnaire (you can do this via text) and have your temperature taken.

You’ll also need to wear a mask (if you don’t have one, CVS will provide one). The person giving the shot will wear personal protective equipment (PPE) including plastic face shields and you’ll also be in a designated area that allows for social distancing.

CVS staff sanitize immunization areas between each patient.

Next, here are the flu shot mistakes to avoid.

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.