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Children's flu vaccine

The children's flu vaccine is safe and effective. It's offered every year as a nasal spray to children to help protect them against flu.

Flu is caused by a virus. It can be a very unpleasant illness for children. It can also lead to serious problems, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

Children spread flu easily. Vaccinating them also protects others who are vulnerable to flu, such as babies and older people.

Information:

If you have any questions about vaccinations, you can:

Coronavirus update

Routine vaccinations for babies, pre-school children and adults are continuing as normal.

Changes have been made to make sure it's safe for your child to have the flu vaccine at GP surgeries or at school. These changes include social distancing, hand washing and wearing protective equipment.

It's important to go to your appointments unless you, your child or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus.

Who should have the nasal spray flu vaccine

The nasal spray flu vaccine is free on the NHS for:

  • children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2020 – born between 1 September 2016 and 31 August 2018
  • all primary school children (reception to year 6)
  • all year 7 in secondary school
  • children aged 2 to 17 years with long-term health conditions

If your child is aged between 6 months and 2 years and is in a high-risk group for flu, they'll be offered a flu vaccine injection instead of the nasal spray.

This is because the nasal spray is not licensed for children under 2 years.

Children aged 2 to 17 years may also have the flu vaccine injection if the nasal spray vaccine is not suitable for them.

Children who should have the flu vaccine injection

Some children will have the injected flu vaccine if they have:

  • a weakened immune system
  • had a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to egg in the past
  • asthma that's being treated with steroid tablets or that needs treatment in hospital
  • been wheezy in the past 72 hours or are currently wheezy
  • had an allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past
  • a condition that needs salicylate treatment

If you are not sure, check with the school immunisation team, the nurse or GP at your surgery, or a hospital specialist.

The injected flu vaccine is given as a single injection into the muscle of the upper arm.

Children with long-term health conditions

Children with long-term health conditions, such as diabetes or heart problems, are at higher risk from flu.

It's important they're vaccinated.

Examples of long-term health conditions

Long-term conditions that qualify for the NHS flu vaccine include:

Where to have the flu vaccine

A table showing a child's age and where the flu vaccine is available on the NHS
Child's age Where to have the flu vaccine
From 6 months until 2 years
(with long-term condition)
GP surgery
From 2 years until child
starts primary school
GP surgery
All children at primary school School
All year 7 school children School
Children aged 12 to 17 years
(with long-term condition)
GP surgery
Home-schooled children
(aged 4 to 11 years)
Community clinic

Home-schooled children should be invited for vaccination by the local healthcare team. If you do not hear from them, ask your child's GP where they should go for vaccination.

If your school-aged child has a long-term health condition, you can ask the GP surgery to give the vaccine instead of having it at school.

What if my child is unwell on the day?

Your child should wait until they're better before having the nasal spray flu vaccine if they have:

  • a very blocked or runny nose – these might stop the vaccine getting into their system
  • a high temperature

How the nasal spray flu vaccine is given

The vaccine is given as a spray squirted up each nostril. It's quick and painless.

The vaccine will still work even if your child gets a runny nose, sneezes or blows their nose.

If your child is under 9 years old, has a long-term health condition and has never had a flu vaccine before, they'll be given 2 doses. These doses are given 4 weeks apart.

How effective is the nasal spray flu vaccine?

The nasal spray flu vaccine gives children the best protection against flu.

It may take around 2 weeks for the flu vaccine to work.

Any children who catch flu after vaccination are less likely to be seriously ill or be admitted to hospital.

Side effects of the children's flu vaccine

The nasal spray flu vaccine for children is very safe. Most side effects are mild and do not last long, such as:

  • a runny or blocked nose
  • a headache
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite

If your child has the injected flu vaccine, side effects include:

  • a sore arm where the injection was given
  • a slightly raised temperature
  • aching muscles

These side effects usually last for a day or two.

Allergic reactions to the nasal spray flu vaccine

It's rare for anyone to have a serious allergic reaction to the flu vaccine. If this does happen, it usually happens within minutes.

The person who vaccinates you or your child will be trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.

Gelatine, neomycin and gentamicin allergies

Let your doctor or nurse know if your child has had severe allergic reactions to:

  • gelatine
  • the antibiotics neomycin and gentamicin

Egg allergies

The nasal spray flu vaccine has a very low egg content and is safe to give to children who do not have a serious egg allergy.

If your child cannot have the nasal spray vaccine, talk to your child's doctor or nurse. They can suggest the best alternative vaccine, depending on your child's age.

Information:

For more advice on what to expect after vaccinations and how to treat common side effects, read vaccination tips for parents.

What's in the nasal spray flu vaccine

The nasal spray flu vaccine contains small amounts of weakened flu viruses. They do not cause flu in children.

As the main flu viruses can change each year, a new nasal spray vaccine has to be given each year.

The brand of nasal spray flu vaccine available in the UK is called Fluenz Tetra.

The nasal spray vaccine contains pork gelatine. If this is not suitable, speak to your child's nurse or doctor about your options.

You can find a full list of ingredients in the Fluenz Tetra patient information leaflet (PDF, 139kb).

More information

On GOV.UK you can read or download leaflets about:

  • Protecting your child against flu, including translated versions in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (simplified and traditional), German, Gujarati, Hindi, Italian, Polish, Romani, Romanian, Somali, Tagalog, Tamil, Turkish and Urdu

Page last reviewed: 21 September 2020
Next review due: 21 September 2023