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Childhood flu vaccine: what you need to know

Child receiving flu vaccine

There’s lots of talk at the moment about the flu season, especially as we areas we are battling increasing Covid infection rates. There is information out there but we know how confusing it can all feel at the moment.

With this in mind, we thought it might be useful to answer some of the common questions that are being asked about children and the flu vaccine.

Who will be offered the vaccine this year?

This year the flu vaccine is being offered to:

  • children aged 2-3 years old (on 31 August of this year)
  • all primary school aged children
  • children in year 7 of secondary school
  • children with a health condition that puts them at risk from flu
  • children who live with someone who is on the NHS Shielded Patient List 

How is the flu vaccine given to children?

It’s given by a painless nasal spray in both nostrils. Don’t worry if your child sneezes or has a runny nose – the vaccine will still work

Why is it even more important to get the flu vaccine this year?

Children under 5 have the highest rate of hospital admissions due to flu. And while COVID-19 is still unfortunately circulating amongst us, those people who are at risk of flu are also vulnerable to suffering the terrible complications of COVID-19.

The vaccine will not only protect your child from a nasty illness it will reduce the chance of spreading to others who are at greater risk from flu such as grandparents and those with other health conditions.

Does my child need this again as they had the nasal spray last year?

Because the flu viruses that circulate around the world change every year, the vaccine is different each year to match the strain of flu currently circulating. We see what type of virus has been circulating in the Southern hemisphere in countries like Australia during their winter and develop a vaccine to protect us against these strains for our winter. Then Australia will do the same to prepare for their next winter learning from us what type of virus has circulated for us in the Northern hemisphere. These scientists are on to it all the time!

Where do I need to go to get my child vaccinated?

Children who were aged 2-3 years in August this year will be invited to their GP practice. School aged children will be offered it in school; the consent form will be sent out to you via your child’s school before the immunisation team visit.

If you home educate your child, please contact your Berkshire immunisation team to make an appointment on 0300 3650077

The immunisation team will let you know the venues of the community immunisation clinics, available appointment times and make an appointment for you.

My child has a health condition, will they still get the flu vaccine?

If your child has a medical condition it is even more important that they are vaccinated. However sometimes depending on the condition they may need to have an injection rather than the nasal spray. If you’re not sure please contact your immunisation team or GP practice.

Will my child feel ill after the flu vaccine?

Sometimes some children may get a runny or blocked nose, a headache, feel tired, or lose their appetite. But remember this is much less serious than catching the flu and the potential complications from flu.

I have heard there is pork in the flu vaccine; is there an alternative?

There is a highly processed form of gelatine (porcine gelatine), which is used to keep the vaccine viruses stable so that the vaccine provides the best protection against flu. If you are unable to accept the use of porcine in medicinal products please discuss your options with the immunisation team or GP. There is an injection as an alternative but this can be much more distressing for your child to receive.  

My child missed the flu vaccine session in school, what can I do?

You can contact the immunisation team on 0300 3650077 to make an appointment for your child to be vaccinated at one of the community immunisation catch up clinics.

For more information on the flu vaccine, as well as other immunisations offered to children, please visit our Immunisation Team pages.

About the author

Julia Lamming is a Professional Development Lead, School Nursing