Flu is an unpleasant and occasionally serious illness which can lead to children spending days in bed rather than being at school and participating in everyday family life.
For the last two years, the flu vaccine has being offered to all children in special schools and some children in primary school. This year, from October to January 2019, children in Reception and in years one, two, three, four and five will be offered the flu vaccine at school. The vaccine sessions will be organised and delivered by the school nursing service.
The vaccine is provided to children as a nasal spray: find out more about this method.
Local area information
We generally send parents vaccination consent forms and letters with more information around September each year: please fill in as much detail as you can, as this will help us determine if the nasal application of the vaccine is suitable for your child.
You can find details about the clinic locations and times here.
See also the flu vaccination form.
Frequently asked questions
What is flu like for children?
- aching muscles and joints
- extreme tiredness.
Symptoms can also include a stuffy nose, dry cough and sore throat.
Symptoms can last between two and seven days. Some children have a very high temperature, sometimes without other obvious symptoms, and need to go to hospital for treatment.
Complications from flu can include:
- painful middle ear infection
For children with specific long-term medical conditions (chronic respiratory, heart, kidney, liver or neurological disease; diabetes; immunosuppression; or no fully working spleen) getting flu can be even more serious as it’s likely to make their medical condition much worse.
In severe cases (which are very rare), flu can lead to disability and even death.
How does flu spread?
Because young children don’t always cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing, flu is passed on very quickly among this age group. Anyone who is in close contact with a young child should ensure good personal hygiene, such as washing their hands.
Why do we need to protect children and adults from flu?
Who is being offered the vaccine?
Children aged two, three and four years who are not yet in primary school will be offered the vaccine by their GP practice.
Children in secondary school are not currently included in the programme. The programme may be extended to include more children in the future. However, children of all ages with a long-term medical condition will still be offered the flu vaccine from 6 months of age by their GP Practice.
Where and when will my child get the vaccine?
- Flu vaccines are administered from October to January each year
- Children aged 2-4 years and not yet in primary school, will be offered the flu vaccine at the GP practice
- All children in school years Reception and Years 1, 2, 3 4 and 5 will be offered the flu vaccine at a school session
Children at high risk are offered the flu vaccine each year from their GP and you can choose if you would like your child to be vaccinated in school or at the GPs.
How is the vaccine given?
An alternative form of the flu vaccine may be suitable for children who cannot have the nasal spray. These children will be offered a flu vaccine as an injection in the upper arm.
What if my child is ill on the day?
If you have any concerns, please speak to your school nurse team. Otherwise there is no reason to delay.
What if my child misses their immunisation?
I've heard that the vaccine is live. Does this mean that my child will get flu?
Does my child need a second dose?
If your child is aged 2-4 years and not yet in school, your GP will advise you. If your child is in primary school, please contact your local school health nurse (on the number in the letter that was sent to you with the leaflet) to find out about local arrangements.
Are there any reasons why my child shouldn't have the nasal (nose) spray vaccine?
Children who are severely immunosuppressed (unable to fight off most infections) should not have the nasal spray vaccine. Children who are severely immunosuppressed include those:
- whose immune system is suppressed because they are undergoing treatment for a serious condition such as a transplant or cancer
- who have any condition which affects the immune system, such as severe primary immunodeficiency
- who are taking regular high doses of oral steroids
Also, children should not have the nasal spray vaccine if:
- They have had a severe reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine, or any ingredients in it
- They are undergoing salicylate treatment (taking aspirin).
Children with an egg allergy can safely have the nasal spray vaccine, unless they have had a life-threatening reaction to eggs (or products containing eggs) that required intensive care.
The nasal spray vaccine may not be suitable for some children with severe asthma who are taking high doses of inhaled steroids, or if they have recently been prescribed oral steroids. Your GP will advise you about this.
The nasal spray vaccine contains a small trace of pork gelatine. Gelatine is a common and essential ingredient in many medicines, including some vaccines. Many faith groups, including Muslim and Jewish communities have approved the use of gelatine-containing vaccines. It is, however, an individual choice whether or not to receive the nasal spray vaccine and we recognise that there will be different opinions within different communities. The nasal spray is a much more effective vaccine than the injection in children. There is no suitable alternative flu vaccine available for otherwise healthy children.
Will there be side-effects of the vaccine?
Some, but not all, children may experience a runny or blocked nose following the nasal spray. Less common side effects include a nosebleed after the nasal spray.
The vaccine is absorbed very quickly so, even if your child gets a runny nose or sneezes immediately after the spray, there’s no need to worry that it hasn’t worked.
For more information on the side effects of the vaccine please read the patient information leaflet (external link).
Is the vaccine safe?
The nasal spray flu vaccine has been used successfully and safely for several years in the USA and has been given safely to hundreds of thousands of children in the UK.
Will the vaccine interfere with my child's natural immune system?
Will my child be protected for life when they've had this vaccine?
How effective is the vaccine?
What if I change my mind?
If you change your mind and your child is at primary school, please telephone your local school health nurse on the number given in the letter you were sent with the leaflet. If you want to withdraw consent, you will need to follow this up in writing. If you want to give consent to your child’s immunisation again, you will need to fill in a new consent form.
Where can I find more information?
Where can I report suspected side effects?
This can be done online by visiting the Yellow Card website, or by calling the Yellow Card hotline on 0808 100 3352 (available Monday to Friday, 10am to 2pm).
Last updated: 12 September, 2019