Defending your child against flu
As part of the NHS childhood flu immunisation programme, the nasal spray flu vaccine:
- Helps to build up a child's immunity in a similar way to natural infection1,2
- Contains live viruses that have been weakened to help prevent flu.1,2 This means that if your child receives the flu vaccine and comes into contact with these flu viruses again, their immune system is more prepared to help fight off the infection.1
The NHS Seasonal Flu Immunisation Programme offers a free nasal spray flu vaccine to all eligible children in England aged 2 and 3 years old, school children in Reception to Year 7, and those clinically at risk aged 2-17 years.3 There may be some variance across the UK within the other devolved nations; please check with your GP, nurse or pharmacist.
If your child is not eligible for the nasal spray vaccine, they may be offered an alternative injectable vaccine.3
Did you know?
Quick steps to show how a nasal spray flu vaccine is given4
The nurse or doctor places the tip of a thin plastic tube just inside the nostril. The child can breathe normally while the vaccine is being administered – there is no need to actively inhale or sniff
The nasal spray flu vaccine is given as a divided dose in both nostrils. Half of the dose is sprayed into one nostril
The other half of the dose is sprayed into the other nostril immediately or shortly thereafter
Since the start of the NHS Childhood Seasonal Flu Immunisation programme in 2013, millions of children have been vaccinated with the nasal spray flu vaccine in the UK.2
Your child may not be able to have the nasal spray flu vaccine if they:2,3
- Are allergic to eggs, egg proteins, gentamicin, gelatine or any of the other ingredients of the nasal spray flu vaccine
- Have a very weak immune system for any reason
- Have severe asthma or have been wheezing in the past 72 hours
- Are taking aspirin or any medicine that has aspirin in it
If your child is at high risk of flu as a result of one or more medical conditions or treatments and cannot have the nasal flu vaccine because of this, they may be offered an alternative option such as the injectable flu vaccine.2,3
If you're not sure, check with your school immunisation team, the nurse or GP at your surgery, or a specialist.2,3
The flu vaccine for children is well tolerated by most children, but some may experience side effects.1,2
Very common side-effects may affect 1 in 10 people, although these are usually mild and short-term in nature.4 Very common side-effects may include some loss of appetite, runny or stuffy nose and weakness.4
Common side-effects may include muscle aches, headache and fever.4
For more detailed information on side effects, please access the patient information leaflet here.
No – if your child is under 2 or 18 years or over, they will not be offered the nasal spray vaccination. The nasal spray flu vaccine will be offered to eligible children who are:3
- Aged two to three on 31 August 2020
- In all school age groups from reception to year 7
- In clinical risk groups
Please note this may vary across the UK within the other devolved nations; please check with your GP, nurse or pharmacist. Children who are ineligible for the nasal spray may still be eligible for an injectable flu vaccine.3
For more detailed information, please access the patient information leaflet here.
The nasal spray flu vaccine contains a highly purified gelatine from pigs (porcine gelatine), which is used in many essential medicines.1
Some faith groups accept the use of porcine gelatine in medical products – however the decision to vaccinate your child with the nasal flu vaccine is completely up to you. Your child may still be eligible for an injectable flu vaccine.3
A full list of the ingredients in the vaccine can be found in the patient information leaflet here.
1. Public Health England. Protecting your child against flu. Information for parents. Flu immunisation in England. July 2020. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/907433/Protecting_Child_Against_Flu_DL_leaflet_2020.pdf
2. NHS Website. Children’s flu vaccine overview. July 2019. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/child-flu-vaccine/
3. Whitty C, Doyle Y, & Powis S. The national flu immunisation programme 2020-21 - update. 5 August 2020. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/907149/Letter_annualflu_2020_to_2021_update.pdf
4. Fluenz Tetra nasal spray suspension Influenza vaccine (live attenuated, nasal). SMPC, Patient Information Leaflet.
https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/product/3296/pil?urlTarget=_blank (Last accessed August 2020)