According to the CDC, everyone 6 months of age or older should get a flu shot every flu season (once per year). This universal recommendation was first announced in 2010, but the modern flu vaccine has been around for almost 100 years. Flu vaccines reduce the risk of illness from influenza by 40-60%.
The only people who should not receive an influenza vaccine are those younger than 6 months of age or anyone severely allergic to one or more of the ingredients in the vaccine. If you are allergic to chicken eggs, look for a recombinant vaccine, as these are produced without the use of eggs.
Depending on your age range, different vaccine types are recommended.
Below, we will dive into the different types of vaccines available at Walmart and who they’re recommended for.
Types of Flu Shots Available At Walmart
As of 2023, Walmart offers three different types of flu shots…
- Fluzone HD
Fluzone (also known as Fluzone Quadrivalent) is a standard-dose flu vaccine suitable for anyone 6 months old or older. This is also the least expensive option for patients without insurance at the Walmart Pharmacy, as it’s currently priced at just $37.30 per shot out of pocket. You can read the FDA’s official literature on this vaccine here.
Fluzone HD (also known as Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent Vaccine) is a high-dose influenza vaccine recommended for patients 65 and older. No one under the age of 65 can receive this vaccine, as stated by the FDA. The cost of one Fluzone HD shot starts at $79.47 at Walmart. To read more about Fluzone HD, click here.
Flublok (also known as Flublok Quadrivalent) is a recombinant flu vaccine suitable for anyone 18 or older. Unlike other vaccine types, recombinant vaccines are not produced using chicken eggs, so anyone with an egg allergy can safely receive a recombinant vaccine. While not technically considered a high-dose vaccine, recombinant vaccines contain triple the amount of antigen material as standard vaccines, making them suitable for those 65 and older or anyone living with a compromised immune system. Those under the age of 18 should not receive a Flublok vaccine. The cost of one Flublok shot starts at $79.47. You can read more about it through the CDC’s website here.
High-dose flu vaccines are often recommended for people 65 and older, as they can increase the effectiveness of the body’s immune response. While some high-dose vaccines contain 3-4x the amount of antigen material, others contain a standard dose along with an added ingredient called an adjuvant. Adjuvants help boost the body’s immune response, increasing the effectiveness of the vaccine for people with lower natural immunity. To learn more about high-dose and adjuvanted vaccines, click here.
All flu shots available at Walmart are manufactured by a company called Sanofi Pasteur Inc.
A Note On Pricing
Although the cost of a single flu shot might seem high, Walmart offers some of the lowest prices for a single flu shot among major competitors.
According to the latest advertised prices, Walmart offers the best prices around on flu shots when compared to Target, CVS, and Walgreens.
However, Sam’s Club and Costco offer even lower prices, with some shots available for as little as $20.
The prices shown in this table represent the lowest advertised price currently available for a standard vaccine at each location in 2023.
As you can see, Costco is the least expensive place to get a flu shot in 2023. You don’t even have to be a member to use the Costco Pharmacy, which makes these inexpensive shots very accessible.
Remember that if you have health insurance, there is a good chance your insurance will cover the cost of your flu vaccine regardless of where you go. Check with your insurance provider to find out more about your coverage.
Walk-Ins & Appointments
To schedule a flu shot appointment at your local Walmart, you can do so by calling the Walmart Pharmacy over the phone or scheduling an appointment online.
To find the number of your local Walmart Pharmacy, use this store locator tool.
To schedule a flu shot with Walmart online, you will need to create a Walmart.com account. You can do so by clicking here. Once you create your account, you will be taken to the vaccine scheduling page on Walmart.com.
Don’t want to make an appointment? No worries! Walmart also offers walk-in appointments for flu vaccines all year round. Most Walmart Pharmacy locations open at 9 AM and close at 7 PM.
Insurance Coverage & Discounts
If you have medical insurance, chances are you will not be expected to pay for your flu shot at Walmart. To find out if your insurance is accepted at the Walmart Pharmacy, call ahead or ask your insurance provider.
If you don’t have insurance, you will be charged out of pocket for your flu shot. The price will range from $37 to $80 depending on which vaccine you receive.
For those without insurance, you can avail vaccine discounts by using a GoodRx account. With a GoodRx discount, you might be able to get your vaccine for as little as $25.
For those with insurance, Walmart Pharmacy accepts most major insurance providers, including Medicare and Medicaid.
What You Should Know Before Getting A Flu Shot
There are very few reasons to avoid getting your flu shot. As long as you’re older than 6 months (which I’m assuming you are since you’re reading this article), then you should be fine to get your shot at any time. However, if you are nursing an infant younger than 6 months, you should wait until your child is 6 months or older to get your flu shot.
Here are some tips for preparing for your flu shot…
- Eat before you go
- Remember to drink water
- Try to relax
- Take some Advil or Tylenol if you feel crummy afterwards
If you are severely ill or have a fever higher than 100°F, you should wait until you recover before you get your flu shot.
Effectiveness & Safety of Influenza Vaccines
The question of vaccine effectiveness and safety is a highly debated one in our current political climate. However, from a scientific perspective (backed up by a century’s worth of well-documented evidence), flu shots are extremely safe and the likelihood of serious adverse effects is very minimal.
This 2018 article published through the National Library of Medicine gives an honest and in-depth look at the rare yet possible adverse effects of flu vaccines. Some of these effects have been shown to be more prevalent in children. However, the article also notes that the vast majority of these “adverse effects” are extremely mild–things like nasal congestion or other temporary cold-like symptoms. Severe allergic reactions to flu vaccines are considered extremely rare, occurring in only 1 of every 1 million doses of flu vaccine administered.
To put things into perspective, influenza infection has killed as many as 50,000 people in the past ten years, while the flu vaccine has never been linked to an increased mortality risk among vaccinated individuals.
When it comes to effectiveness, it’s important to remember that flu vaccines are not 100% effective and have their limitations.
Generally speaking, flu shots only protect you for the duration of one flu season. This is because the protection they provide wanes over time and flu viruses tend to mutate slightly each year. To respond to these changes, the flu vaccine is reformulated each year to respond to the current flu season. So, you should get at least one flu shot per year if you want to be protected. However, some people might opt to be vaccinated twice per year to increase their level of protection.
According to Healthline, while flu vaccines are only 40-60% effective against infection, they are our best line of defense provided as a preventative medical treatment. Flu vaccines can also reduce the risk of severe illness by helping the body mitigate the effects of the virus.
Because vaccines can’t protect us in every situation, it’s important to remember that we can support our immune systems all year round to decrease our chances of contracting illness during cold and flu season. To learn more about how to cultivate a healthy immune system, click here. (Hint: it has a lot to do with eating healthy and exercising.)
If you’re concerned about the safety of getting a flu shot at Walmart specifically, you don’t have anything to worry about. According to Walmart, all of their vaccines are administered by certified pharmacists and healthcare professionals.
Common Side Effects
Aside from the rare negative effects mentioned above, most people who receive a flu vaccine can expect to experience a few minor side effects afterwards.
Common side effects include:
- Soreness and/or redness at injection site
- Muscle aches
These symptoms are to be expected and indicate that your immune system is responding appropriately to the vaccine. This is how the vaccine trains your body to build up an established immune response to the virus.
However, these symptoms should only persist for 1-3 days after receiving your vaccine. If you continue to feel ill after three days have passed, call your doctor.
If you experience any severe symptoms that fall outside the realm of standard cold/flu symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately as these could be signs of an allergic reaction.