Not too late to get a flu shot

Many insurance plans cover the full price of a vaccine

ROANOKE, Va. – There are hundreds of places throughout our region that currently offer the flu vaccine, including pharmacies like CVS, doctors' offices and other flu clinics across the region.

For the majority of us, our insurance plan will completely cover the cost of a flu shot. While you can head to your doctor's office to be vaccinated, many insurance plans including Medicare part B, will cover the full price of a flu shot at local pharmacies. 

Flu strains vary from year to year and experts work to target more strains at once. Previously, vaccines worked to target three types of the flu virus, two A strains and one B strain. Over the past five years, a new vaccine has been becoming more popular. This one, called the quadrivalent vaccine, fights off an additional B strain of the flu in an effort to better protect those who get vaccinated each year. 

"We have a quadrivalent vaccine that covers four strains and a senior citizen vaccine. That one is for people 65 and older," says Steve Boskat, a pharmacist at CVS on Plantation Road in Roanoke. "It's a more potent version to help out that age range."

For anyone who is not insured, the traditional vaccine costs about $40 at CVS, with the high-dose vaccine running about $67. Many pharmacies also offer coupons or discounts if you're paying for your vaccination out of pocket, in an effort to keep the cost low and encourage more people to be vaccinated.

In Virginia, flu season is already underway. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting sporadic flu cases in the Commonwealth.

Flu season typically starts in October and peaks in December, when the virus thrives in the winter is low humidity and cooler temperatures. But the vaccine takes some time to kick in, which is why it's so important to get vaccinated sooner rather than later. 

A myth Boskat says he hears often is that it's too early or too late to get the flu shot. He says that's not true. Typically pharmacies get their vaccines in by August. If you're vaccinated now, that protection will last throughout flu season. If you end up waiting until January or February, when flu season is the worst, you can still be vaccinated but it takes about two weeks after getting the flu shot to develop for protection.

Many also believe that if they end up catching the flu, they can just take medicine to get better. He says that's not the case.

"Antibiotics actually won't cover the flu. The flu is a virus, so antibiotics are great for bacteria, but it's not going to do anything for the flu in that case," says Boskat. 

The best way to protect yourself from catching the flu is to be vaccinated.