10 Conditions the ER Can't Help You With

Flu Shots and Other Vaccinations
Do NOT go to the ER for your flu shot. © Catherine Yeulet/Thinkstock

The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and pretty much any health care provider or expert all recommend that anyone over the age of 6 months get an annual vaccination against influenza. And most people really don't listen. Only about 46 percent of Americans got a flu shot during the 2013-2014 flu season — and of that vaccinated group, only 34 percent of people ages 18 to 64 were vaccinated [source: Levy]. It's not the numbers that we're here to look at though; it's the where.

Seasonal flu shots are available from your primary care provider's office. They're also available at various types of healthcare facilities, including community health clinics and pharmacies, and they may also be available at your workplace or at a local school, supermarket or another community location (find a flu vaccine location near you). Yet despite so many options, some people head to their local ER for their yearly influenza vaccine — and may be surprised to find out that the ER doesn't provide immunization, and they don't have any on hand.

Emergency departments aren't in the immunization business, and they usually immunize patients only when it's part of a bigger emergency treatment plan, such as giving a tetanus shot to a patient who's been injured by a rusty piece of metal or a rabies vaccine to a patient who's been bitten by an animal. Those two things, by the way, could be treated faster and cheaper at an urgent care center.