Walgreen Co. begins offering this season's flu vaccine

Walgreen Co., the largest drugstore chain in the United States, announced Monday that it is now offering seasonal flu vaccinations at all of its stores during clinic and pharmacy hours.

The shots will cost $41.99 for customers who pay out of pocket, while members of Walgreen's prescription savings club will get a 20 percent discount. Medicare Part B covers the flu shots. The company said health insurers Cigna Corp. and UnitedHealth Group Inc. are also covering the vaccinations, the Associated Press reports.

The company said that all Walgreen stores will also offer Fluzone HD, a high dose vaccine that is intended for people over 65. The vaccination prevents against the H3N2 strain, influenza B and swine flu. National drugstore chains like CVS Caremark Corp. and Walgreen have begun giving flu shots earlier in the past couple of years following the 2009 swine flu outbreak. Flu season usually peaks in January and February.

Walgreen administered approximately 6.4 million flu shots during the 2010-11 flu season.

The company said that for the first time, shoppers may use its website to schedule an appointment, even though an appointment is not required, according to the AP. Walgreen is the largest provider of flu shots aside from the federal government. The company runs 7,742 stores across all 50 states. Approximately 350 of the company's locations have Take Care retail clinics. The clinics are able to give shots to patients two years of age and older.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone six months and older get a seasonal flu shot every year unless they have Guillain-Barre Syndrome or a severe allergic reaction to past flu shots or to eggs.