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Flu immunisations

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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. It can have serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

Immunising children reduces the spread of flu across the population and helps to protect other household members too.

For the last three years, the flu vaccine has been offered to all children in special schools and some children in primary school.

This year, from October to January 2020, all primary school children from reception up to and including Year 6 will be offered the flu vaccine at school and all children attending one of our 8 Special Schools.

The vaccine sessions will be organised and delivered by the Immunisation Team in conjunction with the school nursing service.

Find your child’s school clinic here

Children educated at home in this age group are also eligible for the vaccine: please contact Fiona.singleton@oxfordhealth.nhs.uk to arrange a clinic appointment. Preschool children over 2 years old will be offered the immunisation by their GP surgery.

The vaccine is provided to most children as a nasal spray. The nasal spray is a quick and painless method of administering an immunisation and you will not need to accompany your child when they have their flu vaccination: find out more about this method and the immunisation programme by following these links.

Your child’s school will communicate information about the flu immunisation in September and October 2019.

This will include a link to a secure website for you to provide consent and relevant health information to enable us to determine if the nasal vaccine is suitable for your child.

A few children may need a second dose of the flu immunisation or may need an injection because the nasal spray is not suitable: providing the requested health information will enable us to determine which is the best option for your child.

Consent to vaccinate your child is now via an online consent form which will be sent to you by your child’s school. We will no longer be sending out paper consent forms, therefore it is important that you complete the form online promptly so that your child is able to receive their vaccination.

A guide to completing the on line consent form is available here. A list of School Codes are listed here.

If you are having any difficulty with completing the on-line consent form, please contact your nearest school health nurse office listed below and they will assist or call the Immunisation Team Office on 01865 904339.

Contact details for Oxfordshire School Health Nurses
Abingdon

Tel: 01865 904890

Banbury Tel: 01865 904234 Bicester

Tel: 01869 604095

Didcot

Tel: 01235 515503

Oxford City Office

Tel: 01865 904225

 

Wallingford

Tel: 01865 904845

 Wantage Office

Tel: 01865 901586

 

Witney

Tel: 01865 901295

The Immunisation Team Office 01865 904339

 

‘Catch up clinics’ will be offered if your child has missed the immunisation at school.

The dates of the flu immunisation sessions in school are listed here with the telephone number of the relevant school nurse team base.

Please see below for a list of commonly asked questions. If you have further questions please contact your local School Health Nurse Team or the Immunisation team or alternatively please email us.

What is flu like for children?

Children and adults get the same flu symptoms. These symptoms are worse than a normal cold and include:

  • Fever
  • chills
  • aching muscles and joints
  • headaches
  • 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:

  • bronchitis
  • pneumonia
  • painful middle ear infection
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea.

For children with specific long-term medical conditions (chronic respiratory, heart, kidney, liver or neurological disease; diabetes; immuno-suppression; 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?

The flu virus spreads through the air when people cough and sneeze without covering their nose and mouth. Other people then breathe in the virus directly or pick it up by touching surfaces where it has landed, and touch their eyes, nose and mouth.

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?

Children who get flu usually pass it on to family members: the flu virus spreads quickly, and easily to other children and adults. It causes an unpleasant illness which can be serious, and it may lead to days spent ill in bed rather than being at school, work or participating in family life.

Who is being offered the vaccine?

The vaccine is offered to children who on 1st September 2019 will be in reception, and year 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 classes and to all children in our eight Special Schools. Children educated at home in these age groups are also eligible for the vaccine: please contact Fiona.singleton@oxfordhealth.nhs.uk to arrange a clinic appointment.

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, 5 and 6 will be offered the flu vaccine at a school session
  • All children in our 8 Special Schools
  • Home educated children will be offered a clinic appointment

Children with certain medical conditions are offered the flu vaccine each year from their GP and in this case you can choose if you would like your child to be vaccinated in school or at the GPs.

How is the vaccine given?

For most children, the flu vaccine is given via the nose, through a spray into each nostril: it is not an injection, and the process is quick and painless. There’s no need to sniff or inhale the vaccine: only a tiny amount is sprayed into each nostril.

An alternative form of the flu vaccine may be suitable for children who are unable to have the nasal spray. These children will be offered a flu vaccine as an injection in the upper arm by your GP surgery or at one of our Catch Up clinics.

What if my child is ill on the day?

If your child is very unwell (they have a fever, diarrhoea or vomiting, for example), or if your child’s asthma has worsened (with more wheezing or increased use of their inhalers three days before their immunisation), they should not have the vaccine. Please make sure you have informed school and your nearest School Health Nurse Team.

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?

If your child is in primary school and misses their immunisation at school, please contact your nearest school health nurse team to book into a catch up clinic. You can also email us with any queries.

Contact details for Oxfordshire School Health Nurses
Abingdon

Tel: 01865 904890

Banbury Tel: 01865 904234 Bicester

Tel: 01869 604095

Didcot

Tel: 01235 515503

Oxford City Office

Tel: 01865 904225

 

Wallingford

Tel: 01865 904845

 Wantage Office

Tel: 01865 901586

 

Witney

Tel: 01865 901295

I've heard that the vaccine is live. Does this mean that my child will get flu?

No, the virus in the vaccine has been weakened so that it doesn’t cause flu. It helps your child build up immunity to flu, in the same way as a natural infection (but without the severe symptoms). Flu viruses are constantly changing – the strains may be different each year and are selected to offer the best protection each flu season. The flu vaccine should start to protect most children about 10 to 14 days after they receive their immunisation.

Does my child need a second dose?

Almost all children will only need one dose of the nasal spray vaccine. However, if your child is under 9 years old, has a long-term medical condition and is getting the flu vaccine for the first time, they may need a second dose (4 weeks after the first) to make sure their immunity has fully built up. You will be informed if this is the case for your child and asked to make an appointment with your GP surgery to receive the second dose.

Are there any reasons why my child shouldn't have the nasal (nose) spray vaccine?

There are very few children who cannot have the nasal spray vaccine, and these children will be offered an injection in the upper arm which will be provided by your GP surgery or at one of our catch-up clinics.

Children who are severely immuno-suppressed (unable to fight off most infections) should not have the nasal spray vaccine. Children who are severely immuno-suppressed 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

It is important that children with Asthma are protected against Flu. However, the nasal vaccine may not be suitable for some children with severe asthma who require regular oral steroids or high dose inhaled steroids to control their asthma or who have previously required admission to intensive care for treatment of their asthma. Please seek advice from your GP or child’s asthma specialist.

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).
  • Contact with someone who is very severely immunocompromised (for instance, bone marrow transplant patients requiring isolation) is likely or unavoidable (for example, household members)

Egg allergy

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.

Asthma

The nasal spray vaccine may not be suitable for some children with severe asthma who require regular oral steroids or high dose inhaled steroids to control their asthma or who have previously required admission to intensive care for treatment of their asthma. Please seek advice from your GP or child’s asthma specialist.

It is important that you let school and the School Nurse team know if your child at the time the immunisation is due has in the previous 72hrs had increased wheezing and/or needed additional bronchodilator treatment either oral or inhaled.

Contact details for Oxfordshire School Health Nurses
Abingdon

Tel: 01865 904890

Banbury Tel: 01865 904234 Bicester

Tel: 01869 604095

Didcot

Tel: 01235 515503

Oxford City Office

Tel: 01865 904225

 

Wallingford

Tel: 01865 904845

 Wantage Office

Tel: 01865 901586

 

Witney

Tel: 01865 901295

Pork gelatine

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 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?

As with all medicines, side effects to the flu vaccine are possible but usually mild and may include a headache and muscle aches.

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?

Before they can be used, all medicines (including vaccines) are tested for safety and effectiveness. Once they are in use, the safety of vaccines continues to be monitored.

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?

No, the vaccine helps children to build up immunity in the same way as a natural infection with flu, but without the severe symptoms.

Will my child be protected for life when they've had this vaccine?

No. Flu viruses are constantly changing, and a different vaccine is made each year to continue to protect against the new viruses. Next year’s vaccine may protect against different strains of the viruses to this year’s vaccine. This is why the flu vaccine is offered every year during autumn/winter and we recommend children are vaccinated every year.

How effective is the vaccine?

During the last 10 years, the flu vaccine has generally been a good match for the circulating strains of flu, even though it is not possible to predict exactly which strains will circulate each year. Being immunised is the best protection available against an unpredictable virus that can cause severe illness.

What if I change my mind?

If you change your mind you can alter your consent form by accessing the web portal again and amending the information provided until it closes, usually two weeks before the immunisation session in school. After this time please contact your local school nurse team. If you wish to withdraw consent, you will need to follow this up in writing. If the school session has passed and you would like to have your child immunised, you may still be able to book into a ‘catch up’ clinic. Please contact your local school nurse team to discuss further

Where can I find more information?

You can talk to your school nurse team listed here or GP, or go to the NHS website.

Where can I report suspected side effects?

You can report any suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card Scheme.
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: 5 November, 2019