How to Get a Flu Shot at Walmart
Walmart is just one of many retailers offering flu vaccines this year. Find out how to get yours, including when and where Walmart is offering flu shots. Try to do it soon—it takes two weeks after the shot for your body to make the antibodies you ned to protect against the flu.
Prevent the spread of flu
A second wave of Covid-19 is sweeping the country just as flu season kicks into gear. That sets the stage for a “twindemic,” where the coronavirus pandemic and a severe seasonal flu outbreak could overlap.
But it’s not too late to both reduce your risk of Covid-19 (by wearing a mask and taking other measures) and flu. You can help prevent the spread of influenza with a vaccine that you can easily get at neighborhood retailers, including one of Walmart’s 4,700 pharmacies across the country.
“It’s important to get a flu vaccine for the same reason [companies are] trying to develop a vaccine for Covid-19,” says Theodore Strange, MD, interim chair of medicine at Staten Island University Hospital in Staten Island, New York. “Vaccinations save lives.”
Here’s what you need to know about the Walmart flu shot.
Is the vaccine effective?
Yes, although exactly how effective varies from year to year. Influenza viruses mutate so vaccine developers have to reformulate the vaccine every year to match the different virus strains.
Researchers typically look to the Southern Hemisphere and particularly Australia to see what this season’s viral “footprint” looks like. They use that information to determine how the Northern Hemisphere vaccine should be formulated, says Dr. Strange.
If the vaccine is well matched to the strains, you can expect the vaccine to be between 40 percent and 60 percent effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even if you do get the flu, your chances of becoming severely ill are reduced if you’ve been vaccinated. That’s because your body has already mounted an immune response, says Dr. Strange.
Every year, the flu is responsible for 140,000 to 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths, the CDC estimates. The vaccine may prevent as many as 6,300 deaths each year.
Is the vaccine safe?
Again, the answer is yes. Don’t believe any of the vaccine myths you may have heard that the flu vaccine can cause serious illness. Hundreds of millions of people have received flu vaccines over the past 50 years with very few problems.
The most common side effects include redness, soreness, and/or swelling where the needle went in. You may also experience headaches, a slight fever, nausea, and muscle aches, which usually go away on their own. A very few people have allergic reactions to the vaccine. Symptoms can include trouble breathing, swelling, or a fast heartbeat. If you experience any of these, call 911.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine is recommended for almost—but not quite—everybody. The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get vaccinated annually. People who are at a higher risk of complications from the flu such as those 65 and older, pregnant women, children under 5, and those with certain chronic conditions like asthma, are strongly recommended to get the flu vaccine.
People who are allergic to eggs or another ingredient in the flu vaccine should talk to their doctor before getting the vaccine, as should anyone who has had Guillain-Barré syndrome (a rare type of infection-triggered paralysis) and anyone who has any current flu symptoms.
What kind of vaccines are available?
Every year, manufacturers produce several types of flu vaccines. They vary depending on how many flu strains they protect against. Most often they protect against three or four. This year most protect against four strains, called a quadrivalent vaccine.
You can get a flu shot or a nasal spray and some contain an adjuvant, which means it provides an extra boost for people who have weakened immune systems. That includes seniors. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which vaccine is best for you.
When is the best time to get a vaccine?
If you qualify for a flu vaccine and haven’t already gotten one, the time is now. Flu season in North America usually starts around October and peaks between December and February. That means influenza is circulating now. It usually takes two weeks for the vaccine to gain full strength. You want to be protected as soon as you can.
thehealthy.com, via walmart.com, Getty Images
How do I get a flu shot at Walmart?
You can make a flu vaccine appointment at Walmart through the chain’s digital app. Walmart stores are also offering in-store flu shot events on Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons. Contact your local store for the exact times.
You should fill out a patient questionnaire online before showing up. Most insurance plans cover the cost of a flu vaccine with no out-of-pocket expense.
What should I expect when I get to the store?
Associates will take your temperature and ask you about symptoms of Covid-19. You’ll also have to wear a mask, as do all employees. All Walmart stores are also following social distancing guidelines and all aisles are single direction. Walmart has designated Tuesday mornings at 6 a.m. for seniors and customers at high risk for Covid-19 to get flu vaccines.
- Walmart: "Convenient Flu Shots Available at Walmart Stores Nationwide"
- Theodore Strange, MD, interim chair of medicine, Staten Island University Hospital, Staten Island, New York
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "CDC 2020-2021 Flu Vaccine Campaign Kickoff"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Vaccine Effectiveness: How Well Do the Flu Vaccines Work?"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Flu Vaccine Safety Information"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Who Should and Who Should NOT get a Flu Vaccine"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Flu Symptoms & Complications"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Different Types of Flu Vaccines"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine"
- Walmart Digital App
- Walmart: "Flu shots & immunizations"