5 easy steps to getting your flu shot

flu shot photo

Most of us agree that getting our seasonal flu shot is an important thing on our fall to-do list. But, when it comes down to actually receiving the shot and being able to cross it off the list, we sometimes miss the mark. Whether it’s not finding the “right” time or being unsure of what the whole process entails, we can come up with dozens of excuses. Fortunately, there are five easy steps to make getting your flu shot a breeze.

1. Check with your healthcare provider in advance about possible restrictions

Retail and independent pharmacies are allowed to provide flu shots and other vaccinations through standing orders – an official protocol between the pharmacy and a physician agreeing to what a pharmacist can and cannot do. Depending on the standing order and the specific state laws, some pharmacies can only vaccinate adults 18 years or older. So, you may have to take a separate trip to the pediatrician for your child’s flu shot.

Some medical conditions may be a concern at your pharmacy, too. The US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended for the 2016-17 flu season, that anyone who has had a severe reaction to egg (besides hives) should receive their flu shot in an inpatient or outpatient medical setting – not a pharmacy.


2. Insurance networks still apply

While it might be convenient to get your flu shot at a random drug store you happen to be shopping at, remember that your insurance network still applies. Most insurances consider flu shots a preventative measure and are covered for free, but only if you use an in-network pharmacy.

3. Prefer a specific flu shot? Ask if it’s in stock

This flu season there’s a variety of flu shots, including a new formulation targeted for adults 65 years and older. With the exception of intranasal FluMist, which has had low effectiveness in recent flu seasons and ACIP recommends against using, the committee doesn’t prefer any specific shot over another.

Unfortunately, no pharmacy can carry every single flu shot on the market during a flu season, so if you have a personal preference for one shot you should definitely check with your pharmacy to make sure they keep it in stock.

4. Timing is everything

Large chain pharmacies occasionally provide dedicated flu clinics, when an extra pharmacist sets up shop in a part of the store for the sole purpose of giving shots. With a flu clinic, the pharmacist doesn’t have to worry about juggling the everyday demands of filling prescriptions and customer service along with trying to give you your shot, so you get in and out with a minimum of time and fuss. Sometimes large employers will sponsor on-site flu clinics, too. Be sure to keep an eye out for them.

If you’re due for another vaccination this fall, talk to your pharmacist about whether you can receive all of your shots on the same day. If so, you can kill two birds with one stone.

5. Come prepared

From personal experience, a lot of the time patients walk away from getting a flu shot same-day is because they don’t know what the entire process entails. I’ve listed the two main time-consuming parts most of us don’t think about.

Every time you receive a shot, you must first fill out paperwork stating you’re in good health, and verifying your medical conditions and medications don’t prevent you from getting it. Depending on your pharmacy staff, they may let you take home a copy of the paperwork to fill out in advance and bring back. If not, factor in form-filling time.

After receiving your flu shot, you must stay in the store for at least 15 minutes afterwards. That way, if you start experiencing any sort of allergic symptoms – but especially if you go into anaphylactic shock – the pharmacist is able to treat you while waiting for emergency medical services. Be sure to include those extra 15 minutes when you’re planning your visit.

About the Author

Julie Kaplan, Pharm. D.
Julie Kaplan is a licensed pharmacist in Virginia and the District of Columbia. She received a Bachelor’s of Arts in English from The College of William and Mary and a Doctor of Pharmacy from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has experience in patient communication from working as a retail pharmacist.