Flu season is just around the corner, and it is better to get immunized sooner rather than later. And this year getting your flu shot may be more important than ever. While flu shots can be expensive, there are several ways to get your flu vaccination for free or at a reduced cost.
For example, the military provides free flu shots to all active duty servicemembers, Guard members, and Reservists. I received mine last weekend.
There are also ways for veterans and retirees to get free flu shots. Active duty dependents and family members may also be eligible to receive free flu shots as well, depending on availability and other factors. We’ll cover this in a moment.
Free Flu Shots for US Military Members
The US Military requires its members to receive either the flu shot or the flu mist. This includes all members serving on active duty, in the Guard, or in the Reserves.
Active Duty: When I was on active duty, the Med Group would send over a couple of med techs and our squadron would assemble, line up, and get stuck in the arm. We had to report to the clinic or hospital if we missed the general assembly. I’m sure things vary by branch of service and location, but the process should be more or less the same.
- Military hospital or clinic
- Participating Network Pharmacy (Tricare Prime or Tricare Select)
- Tricare-Authorized Provider.
Guard & Reserves: You should go through your unit first. There may be other options as well. According to TRICARE.mil, members may be eligible to receive a flu shot at a military clinic or hospital.
- Check with your insurance provider. Most insurance companies offer free preventive vaccinations.
- Tricare Reserve Select – Tricare covers the flu vaccine free of charge.
Active Duty Military Dependents
Military dependents who are using Tricare Prime or Select should be eligible for a free flu shot through their coverage. This includes receiving the flu vaccination on base if supplies are available. Contact your local base clinic or hospital for further information and availability. Military members have priority, so they may postpone vaccinations for family members if quantities are limited. However, your Tricare coverage should allow you to get a flu vaccine through a local network, pharmacy, clinic, or other location at no charge.
Dependents of Guard and Reserve members should go through their health insurance plan.
Military Retirees & Dependents
You should generally be covered under Tricare Prime or Tricare for Life. You may be eligible to receive your flu shot on base if your base has the available resources and facilities. If not, you should be able to use your Tricare coverage at an off-base location.
Flu Shots Through Tricare
Tricare offers a flu vaccination fact sheet. In short, yes, the flu shot is covered for free. Just keep in mind that you need to follow the correct processes to ensure you don’t pay anything out of pocket.
How to get a Free Flu Shot from the VA
You have to be in the VA’s medical system to receive your free flu shot from a VA clinic or hospital. If you are not already in their system, you will need to fill out VA Form 10-10EZ (pdf), take it to your local VA medical center, and provide a copy of your DD Form 214 to prove your military service. After you are in their system, they will require you to fill out a standard health questionnaire, and then you can get your shot. It’s that easy.
For more information about getting a free flu shot from the VA, or to find the nearest VA medical facility, contact your local VA facility.
Note: the VA only provides flu shots to veterans. They do not provide flu shots to the veterans’ family members.
VA Partnership with Retail Pharmacies & Urgent Care Clinics
VA medical centers aren’t always conveniently located and not all veterans have access to them. This is why the VA partnered with over 60,000 in-network retail pharmacies and urgent care clinics to provide flu vaccinations to veterans who are currently enrolled in the VA healthcare system. Eligible veterans can visit participating locations to receive a vaccination at no cost.
No Appointment or VA Referral is Required.
If you’re eligible, simply go to an in-network retail pharmacy or urgent care location and present a valid, government-issued identification (e.g. Veterans Identification Card, Department of Defense ID card, state-issued driver’s license or ID card, etc.) to receive your flu shot. Eligible Veterans can receive a no-cost, standard-dose (quadrivalent) or high-dose flu shot.
Don’t qualify for the free VA flu shot? Try these tips
If you have family members how do not qualify for the free flu shots, try these tips for free and inexpensive flu shots:
- Insurance company – Many insurance companies provide free or reduced immunizations. Check your policy to see if you are eligible.
- Local hospitals and clinics – some charge as little as $10-20 per shot. Check with your local community for more information.
- Grocery stores, drug stores, and retailers – Many stores that see a lot of foot traffic offer customers a way to get inexpensive flu shots. This is a great way for them to increase their traffic, and the stores’ management knows that when people come for a flu shot, they are also likely to spend money shopping.
- Employer – Many companies and employers provide free or discounted flu shots because the cost is much less expensive than the lost productivity of people missing several days for the flu.
- Airports – Some airports now offer flu shots as a way to reach travelers.
Flu season is fast approaching. Don’t forget to immunize yourself!