Here’s where you can get a free flu vaccine

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Flu season is upon us, and it can turn shared office spaces and classrooms into war zones from October until the new year. The flu is easy to get — you can contract it from someone else’s cough or sneeze. Symptoms include fever, coughing and sometimes vomiting. Not pretty.

Getting the flu can mean more than missing a couple days of work. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 200,000 Americans are hospitalized for the flu every year. Thousands can die from the disease, too: Last year’s flu season claimed 80,000 lives, making it one of the deadliest in recent history. Luckily, there’s a way to prevent getting the flu: Yearly vaccinations.

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Why get vaccinated every year?

The flu virus is always evolving. Scientists predict which strains will be “popular” each year and modify vaccines to counteract them. Though it’s not 100% effective, getting a shot increases your chance of not getting sick and lessens the severity of the illness if you do catch it.

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Can you get the flu from the shot?

In short, no. Though the vaccine is an inert flu strain, it helps your body learn to protect itself against active flu rather than get you sick. You may, however, feel mild symptoms as your body builds up its immune system, such as body aches or a runny nose. 

The CDC recommends getting vaccinated before the end of October. We compiled a list of six places where you can get a flu shot for free under most health insurance plans (the cost is around $40 if you choose to pay out of pocket).

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1. Your primary care doctor

If you have health insurance, your primary physician can likely offer you a free flu shot. If you have a plan from the individual health insurance marketplace, you can get a flu shot without having to cough up a copay. If you are over 65, Medicare Part B covers the cost of your flu shot, and most Medicaid participants are covered. You can read more about Medicare vaccine coverage here.

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2. Urgent care doctor

If you can’t make it to your doctor, check your local prompt care center. Chances are good that they have a stock of shots to give out. Make sure to call ahead just in case.

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3. Your job

The flu doesn’t just affect you — it affects your workplace, too. The CDC Foundation reports that the flu costs the country an average of $10.4 billion a year in direct medical expenses, as well as an additional $16.3 billion in lost earnings annually.

Many companies provide on-site flu shots during the workday, and they are usually covered by your employer’s insurance as preventative care. Some companies may also offer vouchers for shots at local pharmacies. Check with your employer for more information.

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4. Your college campus

If you’re a college student, look for announcements from campus health services about an annual round of shots for all enrolled pupils. Students’ close proximity to each other can make them especially vulnerable to the flu.

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5. Chain pharmacies

Large retail pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS Pharmacy and Rite Aid can give you a free shot under most types of insurance. Verify whether you can get a discount with a prescription drug discount card if you have one. Participating pharmacies sometimes offer cardholders shots at a discount or for free. You can check out other ways to save at CVS here.

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6. Supermarkets

Several nationwide supermarket chains offer free flu shots with most insurance plans. You can check VaccineFinder.org to locate the vaccine provider closest to you.

You can still avoid catching the flu even if you’re not insured. Good hygiene is critical: Wash your hands throughout the day and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. There are several ways to boost your immune system, too.

If you do contract the flu, please stay at home and do not come to work.

This article originally appeared on Policygenius and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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