Flu season is just around the corner, and it is better to get immunized sooner rather than later. 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 service members, Guard members and reservists.
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 United States Military Members
The U.S. 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 Medical Group would send a couple of medical 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.
Other places to get a flu shot include:
- A military hospital or clinic
- Participating in-Network Pharmacy (TRICARE Prime or TRICARE Select)
- TRICARE-authorized provider.
Guard and Reserves: You should go through your unit first, but 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 since 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. Contact your local base clinic or hospital for further information and availability. Military members have priority, so vaccinations for family members may be postponed if supplies 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 plans.
Military Retirees And 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. 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. 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 DD214 form to prove your military service. After you are in the VA’s system, the VA 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, contact your local VA facility.
Note: The VA only provides flu shots to veterans. It does not provide flu shots to the veterans’ family members.
VA Partnership With Retail Pharmacies and Urgent Care Clinics
Not all veterans have easy access to VA medical centers. This is why the VA partnered with more than 60,000 in-network retail pharmacies and urgent care clinics to provide flu vaccinations to veterans who are currently enrolled in the VA health care 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 — such as a Veterans Identification Card, Department of Defense ID card, state-issued driver’s license or ID card — to receive your flu shot. Eligible veterans can receive a no-cost, standard-dose (quadrivalent) or high-dose flu shot.
There’s more information on the VA’s website.
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:
- Many insurance companies provide free or reduced immunizations. Check your policy to see if you are eligible.
- Some local hospitals and clinics charge as little as $10-20 per shot. Check with your local community for more information.
- Grocery stores, drug stores and retailers 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 shop for other goods.
- Many employers provide free or discounted flu shots to their workers.
- Some airports now offer flu shots as a way to reach travelers.
Flu season is fast approaching. Don’t forget to immunize yourself!