Pharmacies are among the most popular places and, although flu shots were one of the first medical services offered at pharmacies, the list of vaccines they now offer has greatly expanded.
Signs decorating sidewalks outside pharmacies now often advertise the availability of shingles shots for adults 60 and older and where Medicare patients can get whooping cough shots generally without out-of-pocket costs.
The list of immunizations available at Arlington Pharmacy includes travel shots to prevent typhoid and yellow fever, to shots for hepatitis A and B, measles, mumps and rubella in addition to flu shots.
"In terms of public access to the flu vaccine, (it's available) every hour we're open, seven days a week," said Cory Duskin, general manager.
"It allows people the access they maybe couldn't get through the traditional means of a physician's office," he said.
Washington was the first state in the nation to allow pharmacists to take an expanded role in health care, from providing injections to authorizing short-term refills on prescribed medications, and more recently, emergency contraception, said Don Downing, clinical professor in the University of Washington's School of Pharmacy.
Although the law granting pharmacists the ability to give injections dates back to 1979, it wasn't until the 1990s that pharmacies began offering annual flu shots on a mass scale, he said.
In the past, many pharmacies have offered flu immunizations during special one-day clinics. This, too, is changing.
As one example, this year Bartells is offering the flu vaccine for $29.99 during any of the hours its pharmacies in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties are open, said Barry Bartlett, company spokesman. The vaccine is available to adults and children 5 years and older.
The company placed an initial order for 25,000 doses, a 25 percent increase over last year, he said. The immunization is generally recommended for anyone older than 6 months.
A variety of flu immunizations are available: high-dose vaccines sometimes recommended for seniors, traditional shots, and FluMist for anyone between 2 and 49 who doesn't like needles.
With vaccine so widely available, people often wait until they hear that flu has arrived, said Duskin, who works at the Arlington Pharmacy.
"We certainly see the ebb and flow of demand based on whether people believe the flu is here," he said. "It's like milk or gas. They wait until the last moment."
Prefer to get your shot at a clinic?
Since the onset of flu season can vary widely from year to year, Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer for the Snohomish Health District, is urging people to get vaccinated now.
The Snohomish Health District is offering flu shots by appointment at its clinics in Everett and Lynnwood clinics, $15 for children and $30 for adults.
Providence Regional Medical Center Everett is offering this year's flu immunizations for $10 to adults and children 5 and up at a health fair scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 10. The event will be on the first floor of its new medical tower, at 1700 13th St. in Everett.
In addition, an initial shipment of nearly 9,000 doses of flu vaccine has been shipped to area Providence Medical Group clinics.
The Everett Clinic received its first shipments of flu vaccine in August, with orders for nearly 30,000 doses. Cost varies, depending on a patient's insurance coverage.
Group Health ordered 166,000 doses of flu vaccine this year, "a little less then we ordered last year, but closer to the number we actually gave out," said Kirk Williamson, a Group Health spokesman.
The immunizations are available on a walk-in basis from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at all its medical centers, he said. People who aren't Group Health members can get immunized at Group Health. The cost is $33 for shots and $44 for FluMist, he said.
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