Flu shots come at a cost, but there are many ways for veterans, service members and their families to get free flu shots. Doctors recommend it and studies show that the flu vaccine greatly reduces your chances of getting the flu, and if you do get sick, the vaccine can significantly reduce the severity of your illness. Remember: the military provides free flu shots to active duty service members, Guard members, and Reservists, so if you fall into those categories, you’re covered. If you don’t fall into those categories, there are ways you too can receive a free flu shot. Here’s what you need to know about getting a free flu vaccine.
Active Duty Military, Guard & Reserves
The military requires all active duty members to receive the flu vaccine, either in the form of the flu shot or the flu mist. Most branches will schedule a time for active duty groups to receive their vaccines. Guard and Reserve Members should check with their unit to confirm if there is a scheduled event or recommended location to receive the flu vaccine.
If there is not an organized event on base, active duty military, Guard, and Reserve members can receive the vaccination at a military clinic or hospital, through a TRICARE-authorized provider, or at a TRICARE Prime or Standard participating pharmacy network, including WalMart, Walgreen’s, Kroger, and Rite Aid. Use the TRICARE Pharmacy Finder to locate a participating pharmacy near you. All members with TRICARE Reserve Select are eligible for the free flu vaccine.
TRICARE Flu Shots
TRICARE covers the cost of the flu vaccine for all enrolled members. Their Flu Vaccine Fact Sheet outlines the process you should follow to ensure that you do not incur any out of pocket expenses, with links to participating pharmacies, and military clinics and hospitals that provide the flu vaccine.
Active Duty Dependents
All active duty military dependents are eligible for the flu vaccine through TRICARE based on availability. Active duty military members are first priority, and family members will be put on a wait list if vaccine quantities are limited. Dependents should contact their base clinic to determine if the flu vaccine is available and schedule an appointment to receive the flu shot.
Free Flu Shots at the VA for Veterans
Veterans who are registered in the VA medical care system can receive a free flu shot at their local VA hospital. If you are net yet enrolled for VA health care benefits, you need to complete the VA Form 10-10EZ and return it to a VA hospital with proof of military service, usually a copy of the DD Form 214. The VA will enroll you in the system and ask you to complete a health questionnaire. When the questionnaire is complete, you will be eligible to receive a free flu shot.
The VA also partners with Walgreen’s and Duane Reade to provide free flu shots to veterans who are enrolled in the VA Health Care System. Veterans who wish to receive their flu shots at participating locations are required to fill out a flu vaccination form and show a valid VA ID card and valid photo ID card. Your VA Electronic Health Record in the VA Health Care System will be automatically update by Walgreen’s or Duane Reade when you receive the vaccine.
Free and Low Cost Flu Vaccine Alternatives
Hospitals & Clinics – Local hospitals and community clinics often offer free flu shot events. Check with your area hospitals to see if there is one scheduled near you.
Local Community Organizations – Many communities have family resource centers and health clinics for low-income families and at-risk residents. Often times, they hold weekend or evening events where community members can come out to receive free flu shots and other needed services such as dental check ups and health screenings.
Health Insurance – If you have health insurance coverage, you can receive a free flu shot at your doctor’s office and at participating pharmacies like Rite Aid, CVS, Target (with in-store pharmacy), and Walgreen’s. Grocery stores with in-store pharmacies may also offer free flu shots.
Your Employer – Many employers are willing to host a free flu vaccine event. This helps reduce the number of work days missed by ill employees. Check with your employer to see if they have an event scheduled, or if they are interested in setting one up.