Does Medicare Cover Seasonal Flu Shots?

Medicare covers one free flu shot each flu season at no cost to you. You can receive a flu shot from any doctor or pharmacy that accepts Medicare. People who are 65 or older are encouraged to get the flu vaccine because seniors are more susceptible to the virus than younger adults.

Medicare Coverage of Flu Shots

People who are 65 and older are at an increased risk of developing serious health complications from the flu.

Flu shots are covered by Medicare as a free preventive service. It is one of several vaccinations covered by Medicare.

Medicare Flu Shot Coverage
  • One free flu shot per flu season.
  • Additional flu shots if medically necessary.
  • You can get the flu shot twice in a calendar year for two different flu seasons.

A flu shot can be administered by your doctor or a qualified health care professional, such as a pharmacist.

If you have Original Medicare, you can receive a flu shot at the office of any doctor who accepts Medicare.

If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may need to visit a doctor in your plan’s network to receive coverage for this Medicare service.

There are several flu shot options available, although the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend one type of flu vaccine over another.

Two flu vaccine types are designed specifically for people 65 and older: The high-dose flu vaccine and the adjuvanted flu vaccine. Both are meant to create a stronger immune response in older adults.

Your doctor or pharmacist can help you decide which shot is right for you.

Tip
Vaccination should not be delayed to wait on a specific vaccine product when another vaccine licensed for use is available.

Costs

If you’re enrolled in Medicare, you can receive one free flu shot each flu season at no cost to you.

Medicare Part B covers the vaccination, and all deductibles and copayments are waived.

If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, the shot is still free, but you may need to have it administered by a doctor or pharmacy inside your plan’s provider network.

Can I Get a Free Flu Shot at Walgreens or CVS?

Pharmacies across the country administer thousands of flu shots every year.

Most pharmacies — including national chains such as CVS and Walgreens — can bill for the flu vaccine if it participates in Medicare, or if it’s included in your Medicare Advantage plan’s network.

Check the pharmacy’s website to see if online scheduling is available for flu shot appointments. If it is, you can pick a date, complete the paperwork and arrive to the pharmacy at your scheduled time.

It’s always smart to call your local pharmacy ahead of time to confirm that flu shots are available. This can save you a trip if the vaccine is out of stock.

Make sure to bring your red, white and blue Medicare card or your Medicare Advantage card with you to your appointment. Otherwise, you may be turned away because the pharmacy can’t bill Medicare for the flu shot without your information.

Tip
Use VaccineFinder.org to find out where to get vaccinated near you.

Why You Should Get a Flu Shot

Getting your annual flu shot is especially important if you’re 65 or older because seniors tend to get sicker from the flu compared to younger adults.

During a typical flu season, people 65 years and older account for 70 percent to 85 percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations, according to the CDC.

The CDC recommends people get a flu shot by the end of October.

Getting a flu shot too early — such as in July or August — can reduce the vaccine’s effectiveness later in the flu season, particularly for older adults.

Flu symptoms often mirror those of COVID-19.

Common flu symptoms include:
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Runny or stuffy nose

Getting the flu or COVID-19 can be serious, but getting both can be deadly — especially for older Americans.

Medicare also covers the coronavirus vaccine at no cost to you. You can get vaccinated for both COVID-19 and the flu — but not at the same time.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines should be given alone with at least 14 days either before or after you get any other vaccine, including the flu shot.

Flu shot side effects are typically temporary and mild.

Flu shot side effects may include:
  • Pain, redness or swelling around the injection site
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches

These symptoms usually clear up in one to three days.

Last Modified: April 2, 2021

6 Cited Research Articles

  1. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2021, February 24). Flu Shot. Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/flu-provider
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, February 18). Frequently Asked Influenza (Flu) Questions: 2020-2021 Season. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.htm
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, January 25). Fluzone High-Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/qa_fluzone.htm
  4. Omdahl, D. (2020, October 13). If You’re On Medicare, Here’s What You Should Know About The Flu Shot. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/dianeomdahl/2020/10/13/if-youre-on-medicare-heres-what-you-should-know-about-the-flu-shot/?sh=1ded66f67ce5
  5. St. John, T.M. (2020, August 14). Medicare: Is the Flu Shot Covered? Retrieved from https://www.walgreens.com/rx-healthanswer/health/p2/a/900002/medicare-is-the-flu-shot-covered/2200227
  6. Medicare.gov. (n.d.). Flu shots. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/flu-shots