DeKalb prepares for flu season, students encouraged to get vaccinated


Patrick Murphy

A flu shot clinic in the Duke Ellington Ballroom was held on Oct. 14 for students and residents.

Greg Gancarz, Reporter

DeKALB — Students and DeKalb residents have local options for obtaining a flu shot before the cold winter months begin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention always recommends that all people six months or older get the flu vaccine, said Lisa Gonzalez, DeKalb County Health Administrator.

Vaccines can be obtained from healthcare providers such as primary care physicians, walk-in clinics, the DeKalb County Health Department and national pharmacy chains like Walgreens and CVS, among others. Patients should speak with their doctor, or call ahead to the healthcare provider they plan to obtain the flu shot from.

The timing and duration of flu season can vary, but flu activity often begins to increase in October, according to the CDC website. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May.

Most health insurance completely covers the cost of the flu shot, local pharmacists and Gonzalez said. The out-of-pocket cost from several local providers was typically about $40 for the standard flu shot and about $70 for a high strength dosage. The high strength dosage is recommended for patients 65 years and older. 

NIU’s student health insurance covers the cost of the vaccine provided by the DeKalb County Health Department, said Beth Squires, NIU’s Public Health Program Coordinator.

While pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS give walk-in flu shots, the DeKalb County Health Department will be providing individual shots by appointment only for the rest of the year, Gonzalez said.

Patients can be in and out very quickly if they go online to fill out their paperwork and make an appointment beforehand, May Desai, pharmacy manager at CVS Pharmacy, 1022 W. Lincoln Highway, said. 

“Best-case scenario is like three minutes if you do the appointment online. Then everything is done,” Desai said. “You literally just have to come in and we give you the shot. We just process everything through. At that point, everything’s already billed by the insurance too.”

Desai said the longest wait times are rarely more than 15 minutes.

The DeKalb County Health Department, the NIU Employee Assistance Program and the NIU Nursing Assistance Clinic hosted two flu shot clinics since the semester began.

This year is even more important with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Squires said in an Oct. 19 email. “One could be more susceptible to acquiring COVID-19 if [they] come down with the flu. Getting a flu shot will also help reduce the strain on health care systems.