Government Pays For Flu Shots, “Free” To Public

Getting a flu shot will be far easier this fall than last, with retailers already stocking millions of doses and free shots available through Medicare and private insurance, officials say.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius says the federal Affordable Care Act mandates for the first time that Medicare and private health plans offer flu vaccine coverage without co-pays or deductibles. Uninsured children are covered under the federal Vaccines for Children program.

“That will keep people healthy on the front end,” Sebelius says.

The elimination of cost as a barrier to vaccination comes at a key moment, with health officials now recommending that nearly everyone get a flu shot, except for children younger than 6 months and those with egg allergies.

Vaccine makers are even offering the first high-potency vaccine for those 65 and older, to see whether a stronger vaccine offers better protection to those with aging immune systems.

This year’s vaccine protects against 2009 H1N1, or swine, flu and the two other flu viruses that also are expected to cause disease this year. Three strains of flu have begun to spread in the USA, swine flu among them, health officials say. Roughly 60% of Americans are believed to be susceptible to swine flu