Vaccinations

Children's flu vaccine FAQs

Does my child have to have the nasal spray flu vaccine? 

Why can't under-twos have the nasal spray flu vaccine? 

Why is it just younger children who are being given the nasal spray flu vaccine? 

How many doses of the nasal spray flu vaccine do children need?

Why aren't children being vaccinated with the flu injection instead of the nasal spray? 

Are there any children who aren't suitable for the nasal spray flu vaccine? 

How do I arrange for my child to have the flu vaccine? 

Will the flu vaccine give my child flu?  

The nasal vaccine contains products derived from pigs. Do my beliefs prevent me from giving my child the nasal spray flu vaccine?

Can my child have the injected vaccine that doesn’t contain gelatine instead?

Does my child have to have the nasal spray flu vaccine?

No. As with all immunisations, flu vaccinations for children are optional but strongly recommended. Remember, this vaccine will protect them from what can be an unpleasant illness, as well as stopping them spreading flu to vulnerable friends and relatives.

Read more about flu.

Why can’t under-twos have a nasal spray flu vaccine?

The nasal spray vaccine isn’t licensed for children younger than two because there are studies showing high rates of wheezing in recipients under two years of age.

In any case, if the new programme of vaccinating children reduces the spread of flu generally, babies and toddlers under the age of two will be protected indirectly.

Why is it just younger children who are routinely being given the nasal spray flu vaccine?

The children’s flu vaccination programme is being rolled out in stages.

It is routinely offered this year (2015/16) to all children aged two, three and four years old, plus children in school years one and two. In some areas primary school children will also be offered the vaccine. Over the next few years, the programme will be gradually extended to include children in other age groups.

All children aged between six months and two years who are at risk of flu because of an underlying health condition are already eligible for the inactivated flu vaccine (the injection) on the NHS.

How many doses of the flu vaccine do children need?

Most children only need a single dose of the nasal spray.

The patient information leaflet provided with the nasal spray suggests children should be given two doses of this vaccine if they've not had a flu vaccine before. However, the NHS vaccination programme advises that healthy children only need a single dose as a second dose provides little additional protection.

Children aged two to nine years, who are at risk of flu because of an underlying medical condition and who have not received flu vaccine before, should have two doses of nasal spray (given at least four weeks apart).

Why aren’t children being given the injected flu vaccine instead of a nasal spray?

The nasal spray flu vaccine is more effective than the injected flu vaccine in healthy children, so it’s the preferred option.

Read more about which children can have the nasal spray flu vaccine.

Are there any children who aren’t suitable for the nasal spray flu vaccine?

The nasal spray isn’t suitable for a small number of children, including those with:

  • a severely weakened immune system
  • a severe egg allergy
  • severe asthma (children with mild or moderate asthma are able to have the flu nasal spray)
  • active wheezing at the time of vaccination

These children may be able to have the injectable flu vaccine instead.

How do I arrange for my child to have a flu vaccine?

Depending on their age, you’ll be automatically contacted about your child’s flu vaccination by their GP or their school.

Talk to a GP, practice nurse or your child’s school nurse if you want more information about when and how your child will be vaccinated against flu.

Will the flu vaccine give my child flu?

No. The vaccine contains viruses that have been weakened to prevent them causing flu. After having the nasal spray, your child will build up resistance to flu, just as they would naturally after having the illness, but without any flu symptoms.

The nasal vaccine contains products derived from pigs. Do my beliefs prevent me from giving my child the nasal spray flu vaccine?

The nasal spray contains a highly processed form of gelatine derived from pigs. Although certified as acceptable by some faith groups, including representatives from Jewish and Muslim communities, there is considerable diversity in the Muslim community, and some scholars from the majority Hanafi community in England have stated that porcine gelatine is not permissible.

Some parents may want to balance the constraints of their faith against the benefits of vaccination. Read more about the nasal spray vaccine and gelatine (PDF, 181kb).

Can my child have the injected vaccine that doesn’t contain gelatine instead?

The nasal vaccine offers the best protection for your child and it reduces the risk to others, including those too young to be vaccinated and those who may be more vulnerable to the complications of flu. The injected vaccine is not thought to reduce the spread as effectively and so is not being offered to healthy children as part of this programme.

If your child is at high risk from flu due to one or more medical conditions or treatments and can’t have the nasal flu vaccine because of this, they should have the flu vaccine by injection.


Page last reviewed: 10/07/2015

Next review due: 10/07/2016

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