Flu Shots: Is Skipping Them Really Saving You Money?

Most health insurance companies offer low-cost flu shots, but those without health insurance or with limited health coverage might have to cough up big bucks to get vaccinated against the flu. While this cost can be daunting, it might actually be more cost effective to shell out the money and get the vaccine than it would be to actually come down with the flu.

The High Cost of the Flu

Every year in the United States, 5 to 20 percent of people come down with the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This results in more than 31 million doctor visits and 200,000 stays in the hospital. Between co-pays, health insurance deductibles and lost wages due to missing work, the flu causes an economic burden of more than $87 billion each year.

Vaccinations Save You Money

Even if you have to pay a co-pay to get your flu shot, it probably costs far less than an emergency visit to your doctor or to the hospital. The average flu shot costs about $35. The average visit to your doctor for a last-minute, emergency appointment runs around $100, according to the Colorado Children's Immunization Coalition. Add in the cost of medication to treat your symptoms, and you're in for much more than the flu shot. If you have to be hospitalized, you'll spend even more.

Vaccinations Prevent Lost Wages

If you work at a job that pays by the hour or have used all your sick days, you'll also lose your wages, which can leave a large financial burden on your family. The average cost of a sick day to businesses is about $135 and the average worker loses about $95 per year because of sick days. When many people are calling in sick, it costs businesses revenue to the tune of $16.3 billion each year, partly because they aren't as productive without all their workers and partly because sick shoppers aren't in their businesses spending money.


The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu shot or the nasal flu mist from a provider like Jeff's Prescription Shop. In fact, getting a flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu. Many insurance companies offer flu shots free of charge as long as you visit an in-network doctor. Some employers pick up the tab for flu shots for their employees. It takes time, and possibly cash, but schedule an appointment to get your flu shot. In the end, it would save an average of $47 per person if everyone got vaccinated against the flu.