Health|September 21, 2011 3:37 PM

It’s time for a deal on a flu shot

You may want to shop around for your flu shot this fall, because businesses are competing for the opportunity to sell you one.

Enticing offers include everything from a $5 discount on the vaccination to free groceries. Rite Aid is giving away coupon books with a flu shot. And if you get stuck at Safeway, you’ll receive a whopping 10 percent off of your shopping trip, anytime through flu season, says Safeway’s Lindsey Carpenter.

There’s good reason for the sharp competition: Analyst say the profit margin for a flu shot runs from 30 to 50 percent.

Dr. Lisa Miller, the state health department’s director of Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology, says it’s not too early to get your shot.

“It takes a couple of weeks for the vaccine to be effective,” she says. “That’s why we recommend people get vaccinated now. We don’t expect to see the flu for a couple of months, at least in large numbers.”

Health officials say you should not skip a flu shot this year because you had one last year. The vaccination contains the same strains, but “with the flu vaccine, our immunity wanes or decreases over time,” Miller says. “So we do recommend that every year people get vaccinated, even if those strains remain the same.”

Last year, only 41 percent of Americans received the vaccination, and 1,000 Coloradans were hospitalized with the flu.

Flu vaccinations tend to cost about $14 to $32. Some insurers, like Kaiser Permanente, make their flu shots free.

Those with needle phobias will be relieved to know that there are other options. This includes nasal sprays (recommended for people aged two to forty-nine years old) and an intra-dermal vaccination, which only touches the skin and avoids penetrating muscle tissue.

The Centers for Disease Control is recommending immunizations for everyone six months old and up.

For a list of flu shot clinics near you, check the website www.immunizecolorado.com to find the closest clinic. They call it influenza.

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