Does Medicare Cover the Flu Shot?

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.

Christian Simmons, writer and researcher for RetireGuide
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APA Simmons, C. (2022, May 13). Does Medicare Cover the Flu Shot? RetireGuide.com. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from https://www.retireguide.com/medicare/services/vaccines/flu-shots/

MLA Simmons, Christian. "Does Medicare Cover the Flu Shot?" RetireGuide.com, 13 May 2022, https://www.retireguide.com/medicare/services/vaccines/flu-shots/.

Chicago Simmons, Christian. "Does Medicare Cover the Flu Shot?" RetireGuide.com. Last modified May 13, 2022. https://www.retireguide.com/medicare/services/vaccines/flu-shots/.

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Medicare Coverage of Flu Shots

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

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.

What Medicare Covers
  • One free flu shot per flu season.
  • Additional flu shots if medically necessary.
  • Two flu shots in a calendar year for two different flu seasons.

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

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.

Here's a Tip
Vaccination should not be delayed due to waiting on a specific vaccine product when another vaccine licensed for use is available.

Costs of Flu Shots Under Medicare

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.

Do Medicare Advantage Plans Cover Flu Shots?

Medicare Advantage plans cover flu shots since they must, at minimum, cover everything under Original Medicare.

Just like with Original Medicare, you will pay nothing for this and will be covered for a flu shot each flu season.

The one difference is that Medicare Advantage plans typically require you to receive care within a plan network. So, you may have to get your flu shot from a doctor or facility that is included in your plan instead of getting the shot from any doctor who accepts Medicare.

This also may affect whether you can get the flu shot at your local pharmacy if it is outside your network. If you have Medicare Advantage and you’re not sure where you can get a flu shot, you can check with your plan provider.

Are Flu Shots Free for Seniors?

Without insurance, flu shots are typically not free for seniors. If you don’t have Medicare or some other form of insurance and are planning to pay out-of-pocket, then your annual flu shot can cost you as much as $50 or more.

Medicare covers the entire cost of a flu shot, so shots are free if you have insurance.

If you don’t have insurance, there may be cheap options available near you. Check to see if there are any local resources, like health clinics or local pharmacies, that may be offering free or low-cost flu shots.

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 they participate in Medicare or if they are 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.

Here's a 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% to 85% 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 COVID-19 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.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Flu Shot

Does Medicare Part B pay for a flu shot?
Medicare Part B will cover one flu shot each flu season. You will pay nothing for the shot, and it can be administered by a doctor or at a local pharmacy. You typically do not need a prescription or doctor’s note.
Does Medicare Part D pay for a flu shot?
Medicare Part D will not pay for a flu shot. While Part D handles prescription drug coverage, it doesn’t cover some vaccinations that are included under Part B. You can still get a free flu shot if you have Medicare through Part B.
What if I need two flu shots? Will Medicare cover them both?
Medicare covers one flu shot for each flu season. So, if there is a second flu season within a year, then Medicare should cover a second shot. Medicare will not cover two flu shots within the same season.
Last Modified: May 13, 2022

6 Cited Research Articles

  1. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2021, October 14). Flu Shot. Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/flu-provider
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, August 27). Fluzone High-Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/qa_fluzone.htm
  3. 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
  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