Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gets a flu...

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gets a flu shot from Tonya Payton-Campbell at a Walgreens store in Chicago. Flu shots this year are administered with a smaller needle into the skin. (Oct. 5, 2011) Credit: AP

If you're skittish about needles, this year's flu shot will really get under your skin, and that's a good thing.

The 2011-2012 vaccine is being delivered by a shorter, finer needle that injects the serum into the skin instead of the muscle. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this should make the injection less painful.

For people on Medicare, the shots have no out-of-pocket costs. Most private health insurance plans cover the shots.

Also available this year is a high-dose version that is approved specifically for people 65 and older.

The high-dose shot, which contains four times the antigens in the regular vaccine, should give older people better protection against the virus but may have side effects. Not all vaccination sites are carrying the high-dose vaccine, and you should check with your doctor to see if it's the right one for you.

Unlike some years, flu vaccine is widely available. Most large drug chains offer the shots with no appointments necessary. To find a drugstore near you, go to the flu shot websites of CVS (, Walgreens ( and RiteAid (

The shots also are available at many local supermarkets, as well as Walmart (flushotsusa.wal and Target ( Suffolk County's flu-shot program is under way, offering both the regular vaccine and the high-dose version to residents 65 and older.

Those without Medicare or private health insurance will be charged $37 for the regular vaccine and $55 for the high-dose version. For a list of vaccination sites and insurance accepted, click here to go to the Suffolk Public Health Hotline at

Nassau County has largely curtailed its senior flu program, citing the wide availability of the vaccine elsewhere. The county offers shots at some senior centers and at a few targeted events. Nassau University Medical Center and Assemb. Tom McKevitt (R-East Meadow) are sponsoring a senior flu-shot clinic at East Meadow Public Library Nov. 4. Nassau residents 60 and older and their spouses can receive the regular vaccine at no out-of-pocket cost. (High-dose vaccine will not be offered.) An appointment is required. Call McKevitt's office at 516-739-5119.

And for those used to Googling everything, Google makes it easy to find sites near you with its new flu shot locator. Go to

While most sites say no appointment is necessary, call first to ensure they have the vaccine on hand and someone who can administer it. It is also a good idea to confirm that your insurance is accepted.


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months