October used to be reserved for football and Halloween, but nowadays this also tends to be the time when many people get an annual vaccination against the influenza virus, or “flu shot.”
And now that most pharmacies dispense the vaccines — along with doctors’ offices and shot clinics held at some workplaces — there are more locations than ever to be vaccinated. The pharmacies promote the convenience of their locations, and some even offer discounts on other items in their stores for flu shot customers.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu shot each year. Anyone can get influenza, but it is most dangerous for small children, people over age 65, pregnant women and persons with damaged immune systems.
This year’s vaccine targets three different strains of influenza: an influenza B strain, the H3N2 virus and the H1N1 virus that caused so much worry in 2009.
Many health insurance policies cover all or some of the cost of an annual flu shot. Policy holders can check with their insurer or with their benefits manager at work to determine eligibility. Some policies require vaccinations to be given at a doctor’s office or at a workplace clinic, so make sure to ask about such specifics before booking an appointment for a shot elsewhere.
Some insurance companies will cover flu shots dispensed at pharmacies; again, it’s a good idea to check in advance to determine if there’s any specific paperwork involved to ensure payment. For those who don’t have vaccination coverage, getting a flu shot at a pharmacy can be both a cost- and time-effective solution.
Prices at Mercer Island pharmacies average between $25 and $29 per shot. Some of the pharmacies that operate in major grocery stores also offer special incentives to flu shot customers, such as $10 coupons good elsewhere in the store.
Days and times shots are available at the pharmacies vary by location. Some pharmacies require appointments while others welcome walk-ins. It’s a good idea to call in advance before making a special trip to a drugstore for a flu shot.
For those who cannot afford a flu shot and who don’t have insurance, the King County Health Department will offer a free vaccination clinic on Saturday, Oct. 22. The clinic runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Tukwila Community Center, 12424 42nd Ave. S., Tukwila.
Participants are asked to bring completed registration forms for every family member to the clinic. Registration forms can be found online.
Here are some of the Mercer Island pharmacies that provide flu shots. Again, it's a good idea to call ahead to a specific store to check days and times vaccination services are available:
(Ed Note: An earlier version of this story stated QFC supermarkets on both the north and south end of the Island offered pharmacy services. They do not. Mercer Island Patch regrets the error.)