Influenza, or “the flu,” can be a serious illness for older adults. However, getting your annual flu shot can help reduce your risk of getting the flu and spreading it to others. And if you have Original Medicare, it’s free!1

Let’s explore details about the flu shot, the parts of Medicare that cover it and more.

What is a flu shot?

The influenza vaccine, or “flu shot,” is a vaccine that helps protect against influenza viruses. New vaccines are created every year based on research to predict the most common flu viruses for the upcoming flu season (typically fall and winter). Most flu shots are given with a needle, commonly in the arm.2

What parts of Medicare cover the flu shot?

There are 2 parts of Medicare that cover the flu shot: Part B (Medical Insurance) and Part C (Medicare Advantage plan).

Part B, which is part of Original Medicare, covers 1 seasonal flu shot once per flu season. Part C plans must provide all of the benefits of Original Medicare, so they also cover 100% of 1 seasonal flu shot. Some Part C plans may even cover a coinsurance or copayment for the flu shot if you get it from a doctor who accepts Medicare and the terms of your Medicare Advantage plan.

Here’s a look at all 4 parts of Medicare and their flu shot coverage:

Medicare plan type Flu shot coverage Part A (Hospital Insurance) Not covered under Part A Part B (Medical Insurance) Covered 100% under Part B Part C (Medicare Advantage plan) Covered 100% under Part C Part D (Prescription drug coverage) Not covered under Part D

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What is the difference between a regular flu shot and a senior flu shot?

A regular flu shot contains a traditional dose of flu virus antigens. These are typically given to healthy people under 65 years of age.

High-dose flu vaccines, sometimes called “senior flu shots,” are typically given to people age 65 and older and include 3–4 times more antigens than traditional flu vaccines. Examples of high-dose vaccines include Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent, Flublock Quadrivalent and Fluad Quadrivalent. Studies have shown that high-dose flu vaccines can trigger a better immune response in older adults than the traditional flu vaccine.3

How much is a flu shot with Medicare?

If you have Medicare Part B or Part C, you pay nothing for a flu shot.

How much is a flu shot without insurance?

If you don’t have Medicare or health insurance, the flu vaccine could cost $25–$110 out of pocket. The price can depend on the type of flu shot you get and where you get it.4

Note: High-dose (senior) flu shots can be more expensive than traditional flu shots.

Benefits of getting a flu shot

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu vaccination can help:5

  • Keep you from getting sick with the flu
  • Reduce severity of illness if you get vaccinated but still get sick
  • Reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization
  • Shorten the length of a flu hospital stay
  • Reduce the risk of ICU admission from flu
  • Reduce the risk of death from flu

Do you need a flu shot this year?

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every flu season (with rare exceptions). The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has made this universal recommendation since the 2010–2011 flu season.2

When should you get a flu shot?

If you only need 1 shot for the flu season, the CDC recommends getting it early September or October. It can take up to 2 weeks for your body to produce enough antibodies to fight the flu after getting the vaccine.6

Note: Flu activity usually peaks between December and February but can last as late as May.

Find a flu shot near you

Getting an annual flu shot is an important way to stay active, healthy and independent. To locate a nearby vaccine location, see how to find a flu shot near you.

Frequently asked questions

No. Medicare Supplement insurance plans , or Medigap, help pay for the out-of-pocket costs Original Medicare doesn’t cover. To get a Medigap plan, you must already have Original Medicare (Parts A and B). Since you would already have Part B, which covers flu shots, your Medigap plan wouldn’t cover your flu shot.

The flu vaccine can work for up to 6 months but is typically most effective in the first 3 months.7

Maybe. It depends on if the pharmacy accepts Medicare payments. Before you get a flu shot at a pharmacy for the first time, call ahead to make sure they accept Medicare assignments.

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Sources

  1. “Flu shots,” Medicare.gov, last accessed Jan. 19, 2024, https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/flu-shots.
  2. “Seasonal Flu Vaccines,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed Jan. 19, 2024, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/flushot.htm.
  3. “It’s Time to Get Your Flu Shot: What You Need to Know During Flu Season,” National Council on Aging, last accessed Jan. 19, 2024, https://ncoa.org/article/its-time-to-get-your-flu-shot-what-you-need-to-know-during-flu-season.
  4. “How Much Does a Flu Shot Cost Without Insurance?,” Good Rx, last accessed Jan. 19, 2024, https://www.goodrx.com/conditions/flu-vaccination/flu-shot-cost-without-insurance.
  5. “Vaccine Effectiveness: How Well Do Flu Vaccines Work?,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed Jan. 19, 2024, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/vaccineeffect.htm.
  6. “Flu season,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed Jan. 19, 2024, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/index.html.
  7. “How Long Is the Flu Vaccine Effective?,” Health.com, last accessed Jan. 19, 2024, https://www.health.com/condition/flu/how-long-does-the-flu-shot-last#citation-5.