A nurse cleans the injection site on a woman's arm before giving her a shot.

Flu shots

Flu shots in Minnesota and western Wisconsin

No one likes getting the flu. We’ve all had to deal with chills, aches and exhaustion. When the flu strikes, it can take weeks to recover. The best way to stay healthy and avoid days stuck in bed is with your annual flu shot. And with COVID-19 in our communities for the foreseeable future, it’s more important than ever to get your flu shot.

At HealthPartners and Park Nicollet, we make it easy to add getting your flu shot to your list of errands. We offer flu shot appointments at many locations in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Why you need a flu shot

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than half of Americans get a flu shot each year. But getting vaccinated is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from the flu virus.

The most obvious benefit of the flu shot is that it lowers your risk of getting sick. You’re up to 60% less likely to get the flu if you’ve had the flu shot.

Studies also show that even if you do get sick, your flu symptoms will be less severe, and you’ll be less likely to need hospital care to recover.

If you’re someone who doesn’t usually get sick, getting the flu shot is still important – it helps prevent others from getting sick, too. If we encounter the flu virus but don’t get sick, it’s still possible to pass the virus on to others.

However, when you’ve had the flu shot, your body can kill the virus so you can’t spread it. This helps protect people who are at risk, including young children, older adults and people who have compromised immune systems.

How the flu shot works

When you’re infected with a virus, your immune system makes antibodies that fight off the virus. A flu shot helps your immune system make antibodies before you get sick.

When you get a flu shot, you’re injected with an inactive flu virus. Even though the virus is inactive and can’t get you sick, your immune system still recognizes it as an intruder. This spurs your immune system into creating antibodies that can fight off the flu. This means that if you’re exposed to an active flu virus, your body will already be prepared to protect you from getting sick. It takes about two weeks from the time you get your shot for the vaccine to become fully effective.

When to get the flu shot

The best time to get a flu shot is as soon as possible. Typically, flu shots will be available starting in September. The flu shot is effective for six months, about the length of flu season. Getting your flu shot early will provide the best protection.

This is especially important if you’re pregnant, particularly if you’re in your third trimester. Getting the flu shot while pregnant can help reduce the risk of your baby getting influenza during the first few months of their life.

When it comes to flu shots for kids, if your child is between 6 months and 8 years old – and they’ve never had a flu shot before – they’ll need two doses of the vaccine. It’s recommended children get their first dose as soon as the vaccine becomes available so the second dose can be received by the end of October.

If your child has received a flu shot in the past, just one dose is needed. And ideally, they’d get their shot by the end of October.

But keep in mind that it’s never too late to get your flu shot. Getting vaccinated later in flu season will provide more protection than not getting the shot at all.

Who should get the flu shot?

We recommend the flu shot for anyone six months or older. It will help protect you from serious complications from the flu, and it reduces the risk of you passing the flu virus to others.

The flu shot is especially beneficial for people who are at a higher risk of developing flu complications, including:

  • Pregnant women
  • Adults 65 and older
  • Children five years old and younger
  • People with asthma
  • People with diabetes
  • People with cancer
  • People with HIV/AIDS
  • Children with neurological conditions

While most people can get the regular flu shot, there are different types of flu shots made for young children and adults 65 and older. If you’re not sure which type of flu shot is best for you, ask your doctor.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

No, you can’t get the flu from the flu shot. The strain of the virus that makes the flu shot work isn’t active, meaning it can’t get you sick.

Some people might experience mild side effects after they get the flu shot. The most common side effects are muscle soreness, tenderness and swelling around the injection site. But some people might experience a mild fever, muscle aches or a slight headache.

Since the flu virus can adapt and change, the flu vaccine can’t protect against all strains of the flu. Most flu vaccines can protect you from up to four different strains of the flu. Health experts use research to determine which strains of flu to include in the vaccine based on what will be the most common that flu season. Flu shots typically vaccinate you against two types of influenza A (H1N1 and H3N2) and two types of influenza B.

No, the flu shot won’t prevent or reduce the severity of COVID-19. That’s because influenza and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses. So, you’ll need to get a COVID-19 vaccine to protect yourself from the coronavirus.

Yes, people 65 and older are at a higher risk of developing complications from the flu. It’s recommended that older adults get a flu vaccine called the Fluad Quadrivalent. It’s made with a medicine that helps boost and lengthen the duration of your immune system’s response to the flu. This makes the Fluad Quadrivalent vaccine more effective at preventing the flu in older adults than the standard flu shot.

You’ll need to get a flu shot every flu season.

Yes! We’re offering the nasal mist vaccine, also known as FluMist. Both FluMist and the flu shot are effective options for patients between two and 49 years old. This can be a good option if you’re concerned about getting a shot but still want protection from the flu virus.

Our recent studies show that FluMist is safe to give to children two years and older. If you’d prefer FluMist, just let us know when you make your appointment.

The cost of a flu shot depends on your insurance coverage. Many insurance providers cover flu shots 100%. If you’re not sure what your insurance covers, call the number on the back of your membership card.

If you don’t have insurance, HealthPartners and Park Nicollet offers flu shots for $50.

We accept most health insurance plans, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CIGNA, HealthPartners, Medica, Medicare, PreferredOne and many others.

Not sure what your insurance covers? Call the number on the back of your card for help looking at your options.

Don’t have your card in front of you? Here are member services numbers to help you get started: