NHS Scotland recommends all eligible children should get the flu vaccine this year to help protect them from influenza (flu).
Flu (influenza) is a common infectious respiratory virus. Symptoms may include a fever, a cough, a headache, and tiredness.
Why should I have my child vaccinated?
Flu can be serious. In some cases flu can lead to complications. These can include bronchitis, pneumonia, painful middle-ear infection, vomiting, diarrhoea. In the worst cases, flu can lead to disability and even death.
Flu can be even more serious for people with health conditions such as:
- heart, kidney, liver or neurological disease
- a weakened immune system
- a spleen that does not work fully
Flu can make health conditions worse.
The flu vaccine will reduce the risk of your child getting or spreading flu to friends and family who are at greater risk from flu. For example, grandparents or people with health conditions. It'll also help prevent your child getting sick with flu and needing time off school or nursery.
If your child has a confirmed coronavirus infection, please rearrange their vaccination appointment.
Who's being offered the vaccine?
The flu vaccine's offered to all:
- children aged 6 months or older with eligible health conditions
- children aged 2 to 5 years and not yet at school (children must be aged 2 years or above on 1 September 2022 to be eligible)
- primary school children (primary 1 to primary 7)
- secondary school pupils (S1 to S6)
How will my child be offered the vaccine?
All children aged 2 to 5 years (not yet in school) and children aged 6 months to 2 years with an eligible health condition will usually be offered the flu vaccine in community clinics.
All primary and secondary school pupils (including those with eligible health conditions) will be offered the vaccine in school.
If your child misses their flu vaccination appointment and you want to rearrange this, please contact your local health board. Contact details can be found on your child's invitation letter.
Home-educated children are also eligible for the flu vaccine. To arrange this, please contact your local health board.
Further information on how to contact your local health board
If a young person has left secondary school, they are not eligible to get a flu vaccine at school. 16 and 17 year olds with an eligible health condition who have left school can phone 0800 030 8013 to book an appointment for the flu vaccine or by visiting the online booking portal.
How is the vaccine given?
Children aged 2 years and older are usually given the flu vaccine as a nasal (nose) spray into each nostril. It's quick and painless and there's no need to sniff or inhale the vaccine. It'll just feel like a tickle in their nose.
The Fluenz Tetra nasal spray suspension Influenza vaccine (live attenuated, nasal) is routinely used in Scotland.
Children aged 6 months to 2 years with an eligible health condition will be offered the injectable vaccine. The egg-based Quadrivalent Inactivated Vaccine (QIVe) is routinely used.
Does my child need a second dose?
Almost all children will only need one dose of the flu vaccine.
However, if your child is under 9 years old they'll need a second dose 4 weeks after the first if they:
- have a health condition and this was their first time getting the flu vaccine – this'll make sure their immunity has fully built up
- were given the injectable vaccine and this was their first time getting the flu vaccine – even if they don't have a health condition
Your health professional will advise you if your child needs a second dose.
Vaccine side effects
As with all medicines, side effects of the nasal spray flu vaccine are possible, but usually mild.
More about child flu vaccine side effects
All medicines, including vaccines, are tested for safety and effectiveness before they're allowed to be used.
Once they're in use, the safety of vaccines continues to be monitored by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The nasal spray flu vaccine has been used safely since 2014. Millions of doses of the vaccine have been given to children in the UK.
Can the flu vaccine give my child flu?
The virus in the vaccine has been weakened so it doesn’t cause flu. It helps build up immunity to flu.
Children who don’t get the vaccine are not at risk of catching flu from children who have had the vaccine. The only exception to this would be children who are extremely immunocompromised (have a weakened immune system).
Does the vaccine work?
The annual vaccine offers protection against the most common types of flu virus that are around each winter. The flu vaccine should start to protect most children about 10 to 14 days after they receive their vaccination.
In previous years, the flu vaccine has worked very well, providing protection against flu. It has also reduced the chance of spreading flu into the wider community.
Children who can't have the nasal spray flu vaccine
An alternative injectable form of the vaccine is available for children who cannot have the nasal spray flu vaccine.
This includes children who:
- have their immune system suppressed because they're getting treatment for serious conditions, such as cancer, or if they've had a transplant
- have a serious condition which affects the immune system, such as severe primary immunodeficiency
- live with or are in close regular contact with very severely immunocompromised people who require isolation
- are taking regular high doses of oral steroids
- have had a severe reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine
- are undergoing salicylate treatment (for example, taking aspirin)
Children with egg allergies
Children with an egg allergy can safely have the nasal spray flu vaccine, unless they've had a life-threatening reaction to eggs that required intensive care.
An egg-free injectable vaccine which can be used in those from 2 years of age is available. If you're affected, please speak to your immunisation nurse for advice.
Children with severe asthma
The nasal spray flu vaccine may not be suitable for some children with severe asthma who regularly need oral steroids for asthma control. If you’re affected, please speak to your health professional for advice.
Children on medications
If your child is at school, please make sure you list all of your child’s medications on the consent form. All consent forms will be checked to make sure your child can have the nasal spray.
The nasal spray flu vaccine contains a highly processed form of gelatine (pork gelatine) which is used in many essential medicines. The gelatine helps keep the vaccine viruses stable so the vaccine provides the best protection against flu.
Many faith groups, including Muslim and Jewish communities, have approved the use of vaccines containing gelatine. The nasal spray flu vaccine is a more effective vaccine than the injected flu vaccine. It's the preferred option for children. If you do not want your child to get the nasal spray flu vaccine for religious reasons, you may request that your child is given the vaccine by injection by ticking the appropriate box on the consent form.