Peak time for seasonal flu in the United States generally falls in January or February, but activity can erupt as early as October. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get a dose of the influenza vaccine. Under the Affordable Care Act, all marketplace plans must cover the cost -- so long as the provider is in network. Flu shots are also free under Medicare and many other plans.
For families without coverage, flu shots from a doctor's office can be costly. To find the cheapest place to get the vaccine, Cheapism.com checked prices at six of the country's largest pharmacy chains, as well as Costco and Sam's Club, which are known for low prices and allow non-members to use their pharmacies. The survey was conducted in mid-October and prices may vary by location.
CVS pharmacies, including those in Target stores, are so far offering only quadrivalent flu shots for $40.99. These are more expensive than the standard trivalent vaccine but protect against one additional strain of influenza. The high-dose flu shot, recommended for seniors 65 and older, costs $66.99.
Only the quadrivalent and high-dose flu shots are available at Kroger pharmacies this year. They cost $40 and $60, respectively, out of pocket.
Walmart pharmacies are offering the quadrivalent vaccine this year but not the trivalent. The four-component shot costs $39.88. A high-dose flu shot is available for $69.25.
Rite Aid is offering both the trivalent and quadrivalent flu shots this year for $34.99 and $39.99, respectively. High-dose flu shots are $69.99.
Walgreens is charging $39.99 for the quadrivalent flu shot but also carries the trivalent shot for $31.99. That's the lowest price we found for the three-component vaccine, but the broader protection of the quadrivalent shot costs even less at other pharmacies. The high-dose flu shot for seniors is $59.99 at Walgreens.
Sam's Club is not offering the cheaper trivalent vaccine this year, but it’s second-cheapest among the pharmacies surveyed for quadrivalent and high-dose flu shots. Those are $30 and $50, respectively.
Costco undercuts the rest for quadrivalent flu shots this year (it's not offering the trivalent vaccine). Members and non-members alike pay $19.99 out of pocket. Seniors in need of a high-dose flu vaccine should also head to Costco for the lowest price: $43.52.
Another option is to get a flu shot through an employer. Many companies organize flu-shot days for employees and their families, and the cost is often free. Inquire before heading to a pharmacy to get your yearly dose.