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How, where, and why to get your free flu shot this year

A resource guide for UPMC Health Plan members.

The best way to protect yourself this flu season is to get vaccinated. A flu shot is free for you and your family members who also have UPMC Health Plan insurance.

What is the flu?

Influenza, or the flu, is a respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly through tiny droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk.

Why do I need the flu shot every year?

Each year the strains of a flu virus change, requiring a new vaccine every year for maximum protection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges everyone 6 months of age and older to get an annual flu shot. The flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year.

Protect yourself and others

While anyone can get the flu, even healthy people, others are at a higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, those of any age with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, pregnant women, and children younger than 5 years.  

COVID-19 and the flu

With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting the country, it’s more important than ever to stop the spread of illness by getting your flu shot this year. Getting the flu vaccine will help reduce the number of flu cases in our community and make it easier for health care providers to focus on patients with COVID-19.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can get the COVID-19 vaccine and the influenza vaccine on the same day.

For more information on benefits and coverage information as well as frequently asked questions, visit our COVID-19 resource page.

UPMC is also providing free COVID-19 vaccines. Click here to schedule your or your family’s COVID-19 vaccine appointment or call a Health Care Concierge at 833-280-8510 (TTY: 711).  Help is available weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Learn more about COVID-19 or schedule a vaccine appointment.

Where to get your free flu shot

This free, preventive vaccine is available at:

  • Primary care providers’ (PCP) and pediatricians’ offices. Find a doctor or provider in the UPMC Health Plan network.
  • Many independent and in-network pharmacies, including Rite Aid, Giant Eagle, Giant Food Stores, and Martin’s Food Markets.* Children 3 and older can now get their flu shot at a local pharmacy.
  • Participating UPMC Health Plan Drive-thru Flu Clinics locations.

Members outside of Pennsylvania can get the flu shot at any nearby pharmacy and submit a reimbursement form using the links below.

If you already paid or were charged for your flu shot:

This preventive vaccine is free and easy to receive for you and members of your family who are also enrolled in a UPMC Health Plan product.

If you have to pay for your shot, we will reimburse you.

  • To submit online, simply log in or register on MyHealth OnLine and fill out a reimbursement form.
  • UPMC employees can submit online by logging in to MyHealth OnLine and following this path: Menu > Forms and Guides.
  • University of Pittsburgh faculty and staff can submit online by logging in to my.Pitt.edu and following this path: My Resources > Human Resources > MyHealth Access > Menu > Forms and Guides.
  • To submit through the mail, download this form and mail it in.

Treating and preventing the flu

The best ways to naturally prevent your exposure to the flu include boosting your immunity, frequently washing your hands, and cleaning surfaces.

The flu vs. the common cold

The flu and a common cold have similar symptoms. However, flu symptoms are generally more intense than those of a common cold. Cold symptoms are usually milder than the symptoms of flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose.

Will antivirals or antibiotics help?

If you get the flu, your body’s immune system will kick into high gear to fight the infection. You can treat most of the symptoms with over the counter medications. In certain cases when your immune system needs some extra help your doctor might prescribe antivirals for the flu. However, antibiotics are not a treatment for the flu and their side effects could cause harm.

Have questions or need additional help?

A health care concierge can help you find a new provider or get reimbursed for your flu shot. Call the number on your member ID card or stop by one of our UPMC Health Plan Connect Center locations for in-person assistance.

*Pennsylvania pharmacies by state law are generally only permitted to administer the flu vaccine to children ages 9 and older, but may, until December 29, 2021, administer the flu vaccine to children ages 3 and older.