The flu vaccination programme:
who, where and when
What do parents and guardians need to know about this year’s programme?
We know deciding to get your child vaccinated is an incredibly important decision, but where do you begin?
We thought we could lend a helping hand, and have included some frequently asked questions for parents and guardians.
For any other questions, make sure you contact your local healthcare professional.
Who is being offered the vaccine this year?
In England in 2016/17, the national flu immunisation programme includes1;
- All those aged two, three and four years old (but not five years or older) on 31 August 2016 (i.e. date of birth on or after 1 September 2011 and on or before 31 August 2014) through general practice
- All children of appropriate age for school years 1, 2 and 3 through locally commissioned arrangements
- All primary school-aged children in former primary school pilot areas
- Clinically at risk children
In Wales it includes2:
- All children aged less than 2 years old on 31 August 2016 in an at risk group (*children must be 6 months or older on day of vaccination). Please note that the nasal flu vaccine spray is only for children and adolescents from 24 months, children younger than 24 months will be provided with an alternative vaccine
- All children aged 2 or 3 years old through GP practices (*children must be born on or between 1 September 2012 to 31 August 2014)
- All children aged 4 to 7 years old (school years reception to year 3)
- All children aged 8 to 16 years old (primary school years 4-6, secondary school years 7-11) in an at risk group for flu
In Scotland it includes3:
- All children aged 2-5 years (and not yet in school) at their GP practice (children must be aged 2 years or above on 1 September 2016)
- All primary school children at school
In Northern Ireland it includes4:
- All pre-school children who are aged 2 years or over on 1 September 2016 (i.e. children born between 2 July 2012 and 1 September 2014)
- All primary school children at school
Why are so many children being vaccinated?
A comprehensive flu vaccination programme including as many children as possible before flu season starts can help to protect them in time for the winter.5 As well as helping to protect children, it can also help to protect the rest of the family, including more vulnerable members, like grandparents.5
What are the symptoms of flu vs cold?
Flu is not just a ‘bad cold’.
Colds and flu share some of the same symptoms (cough, sore throat etc.), but are caused by different viruses, and flu can be much more serious than a cold.6
Visit our flu symptoms page to find out more about the symptoms to watch out for.
Why should I get my child vaccinated?
Flu can be a very unpleasant illness in children that can often last several days. Some children can get a very high fever, and may need to go to hospital. Serious complications of flu can include a painful ear infection, bronchitis, and pneumonia.7,8,9
But flu vaccination doesn’t only benefit the child. When a vaccination programme like the flu vaccination programme begins, the number of people catching the disease usually starts to decrease. If enough people in a community are vaccinated, it’s difficult for a disease to pass between those who are not. This is called herd immunity.6
Who will give my child their vaccination?
The programme this year will be offered either by GP surgeries, pharmacies or in schools. Parents will be advised where their child’s vaccination will take place. If for example, your child’s vaccination is taking place in a GP surgery, your GP should contact you by phone or letter to make an appointment.5
My child had a vaccine last year. Do they need another this year?
Yes they do; the flu vaccine for each winter helps provide protection against the strains of flu that are likely to circulate that year, and which may differ from the previous year. The World Health Organisation (WHO) monitors outbreaks of flu around the globe, and recommends twice annually which strains should be included in influenza vaccines.10 For this reason we recommend that even if vaccinated last year, your child should be vaccinated again this year.5
- Department of Health. The National Flu immunisation programme 2016/17. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/529954/Annual_flu_letter_2016_2017.pdf [Last accessed: October 2016].
- Welsh Health Circular. The National Influenza Immunisation Programme 2016-17. Available at: http://gov.wales/docs/dhss/publications/160803whc39en.pdf [Last accessed: October2016].
- The Scottish Government, Chief Medical Office Directorate. SCOTTISH CHILDHOOD FLU VACCINATION PROGRAMME 2016-17. Available at: http://www.sehd.scot.nhs.uk/cmo/CMO(2016)14.pdf [Last accessed: October2016].
- Department of Health, Chief Medical Officer. SEASONAL INFLUENZA VACCINATION PROGRAMME 2016/17. Available at: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/hss-md-14-2016.pdf [Last accessed October 2016].
- Public Health England. Protecting your child against flu: Information for parents. Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/526367/PHE_Protecting_Child_Flu_May16.pdf [Last accessed: October 2016].
- Boots Web MD. Flu guide: What is flu? Available at: http://www.webmd.boots.com/cold-and-flu/flu-guide/what-is-flu Last accessed October 2016.
- Caring for kids. Influenza in children. Available at: caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/influenza_in_children[Last accessed: October 2016].
- Centers For Disease Control. Seasonal Influenza (Flu) Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine. Available at: cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm[Last accessed: October 2016].
- Heikkinen T et al. J Infect Dis 2004; 190: 1369-1373.
- World Health Organisation. Influenza. Available at: who.int/influenza/vaccines/virus/en [Last accessed: October 2016].
You are encouraged to report side effects. This includes any possible side effects not listed in the package leaflet. Please talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you get any side effects. You can also report side effects directly via the Yellow Card Scheme at www.mhra.gov.uk/yellowcard