Medicare: Is the flu shot covered?

By Tina M. St. John, MD Jul 17, 2022 • 5 min

Healthcare expenses can add up quickly.

But you don't have to worry about the cost of an annual flu shot if you have Medicare Part B, the portion of Medicare insurance that covers medical services to keep you healthy. The flu shot and the administration fee are fully covered by original Medicare Part B,  as long as you get the shot from a provider enrolled in Medicare.   

If you have Medicare Advantage, the flu shot and administration fee  may also be covered. There is no copay or deductible under Medicare Advantage plans if you get the shot from a Medicare-enrolled provider who is in your plan’s provider network.

Getting your annual flu shot is especially important if you're age 65 or older, because older adults tend to get sicker with the flu compared to younger adults and children.

Importance of flu shots for seniors

Eating well, staying active and working with your doctor to control any medical problems you might have will help you enjoy a healthy life well into your older years. Still, aging takes a toll on your immune system, making it less capable of fighting infections like the flu. As you get older, you're more likely to catch the flu. You're also more likely to develop serious problems, like pneumonia, if you come down with the flu. Americans age 65 and older are more likely than any other age group to be hospitalized for the flu, and approximately 9 out of 10 flu deaths in the U.S. occur in this age group, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Who should get a flu shot?

The CDC recommends a yearly flu shot for almost all adults and children 6 months of age and older unless you've had a severe, life-threatening reaction to a flu shot in the past, which is rare. Talk with your doctor about whether the flu shot is safe for you if you've had a severe reaction in the past or are allergic to eggs.

While everyone should get a yearly flu vaccine, it's especially important if you're age 65 or older because you're in the age group with the greatest risk for serious complications. Your risk is further increased if you have certain medical conditions, including:

  • Asthma or COPD
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • A weakened immune system due to cancer treatment, steroid medications or HIV/AIDS

Flu shot options for seniors

Medicare Part B covers all flu shots approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in people 65 years of age and older. Nasal spray flu vaccines are not approved for this age group, but there are several flu shot options. These include standard-dose flu shots and two flu vaccines designed specifically for those 65 and older: a high-dose flu vaccine and an adjuvanted flu vaccine to help produce a better immune response and improve protection against the flu. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you decide which flu shot is best for you.

Flu shot tips and benefits

Following a few simple tips will help maximize your protection against the flu.

  • Get a flu shot every year because protection from the vaccine wears off over time. Flu viruses also change from one flu season to the next, so you need to update your protection every year.
  • Get your flu shot early to make sure you're protected throughout the flu season, which can begin as early as October.

Getting a flu shot is not only good for you, but it might also protect others in your household and community. Having immunity against the flu means you cannot spread the illness to people who aren't protected, such as babies who are too young to get a flu shot and people who are allergic to the vaccine.

Have you gotten your flu shot this year?

Tina M. St. John, MD, is a former senior medical officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Clinically reviewed and updated by Nora Laberee, June 2022. 

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