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Spend $30, Get a Free....What?

With shoppers cutting back not only on their spending, but also on the number of trips they are making to stores, retailers are hunting for new ways to coax them through the door.

AP

All three of the nation's largest drugstore chains—CVS Caremark, Walgreens and Rite Aid—as well as Target are making big bets that they will be able to draw shoppers with their flu vaccination programs.

Not only are they already advertising the programs, some stores have already started providing shots. Others will begin this week.

Anyone who gets a flu shot at Rite Aid will receive a free coupon booklet that offers more than $100 in savings, while supplies last.

At Walgreens , consumers can buy gift cards for flu shots, while CVS is doing a deal right now where you can get your flu shot for free after you spend $30on select Procter & Gambleproducts. These offers illustrate just how popular the retailers expect these programs to be.

But the jury's still out on whether this will be a succesful ploy, particularly since it's unclear whether consumers will demand this year's vaccine in the absence of a threatened flu outbreak. (The World Health Organization declared the H1N1 flu pandemic officially over earlier this month.)

Still, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending anyone over the age of six months be vaccinated. (There are exceptions for those who have egg allergies or other conditions.) The new guidance is a significant expansion over the CDC's prior guidelines, which had suggested only specific groups receive the vaccine.

The vaccination programs are getting underway earlier in than has traditionally been the case. In the past, programs like these have not kicked off until about October, but experts say that that has largely been because of the availability of the vaccine.

This year there is an all-in-one flu vaccine that will provide protection from several strains of influenza as well as the H1N1 virus.

Each year, influenza causes about 36,000 deaths in the U.S. A flu shot can reduce the chance of becoming infected by as much as 70 percent.

Flu season in the U.S. can begin as early as October and can continue through mid-May, with the highest concentration of cases occurring between December and April.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com

Retail