Flu can be a very unpleasant illness in children, with serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Annual immunisation provides important protection to individual children and helps reduce the spread of flu to their friends, families and the wider community, protecting younger siblings, grandparents and others who are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill from flu.
The flu vaccine currently used in schools is called Fluenz Tetra and is given by a quick and simple spray up the nose, it is painless and there are no needles involved.
Fluenz Tetra may not be suitable for all children who are eligible for the flu vaccine (please refer to who should not have this vaccine link). For children that cannot have Fluenz Tetra they will be invited to have an injectable inactivated influenza vaccine at their GP Practice.
Who should not have this vaccine?
Fluenz Tetra should not be given to a child or adolescent who:
- is under 24 months or 18 years or older
- has had a confirmed anaphylactic reaction to a previous dose of flu vaccine or any component of the vaccine
- is clinically severely immunodeficient due to conditions or immunosuppressive
- is currently taking or has been prescribed oral steroids in the last 14 days for respiratory disease
- is receiving salicylate therapy (aspirin)
- is pregnant
How does my child get this vaccination?
Offering vaccination through schools is the most effective route to deliver immunisations to school-aged children. Children in school year R, 1, 2, 3 and 4 will be sent a letter and consent form home from school. Please return the consent form to school as soon as possible as a delay may mean your child misses their vaccination in school.
Please note Children in Year R in Kent will receive a letter to their home address as the local authority is unable to provide us with the school information for Year R Kent children.
On the day
Our teams will visit your child’s school and will be assisted by school staff to identify children correctly. If your child is absent or unwell on the day of the session please call us on 0300 123 5205 and we can offer you an appointment at one of our catch up clinics
Can we help?
If you have any concerns about this vaccination, for example if you are worried because your child is, has additional needs, for example a health condition or disability and you want to ask any questions please do contact us on 0300 123 5205 and we can arrange for you to speak to one of your friendly local immunisation nurses.
Although vaccinated children are known to shed virus a few days after vaccination, it is less able to spread from person to person than the natural infection. The amount of virus shed is normally below the levels needed to pass on infection to others and the virus does not survive for long outside of the body. This is in contrast to natural flu infection, which spreads easily during the flu season. In schools using vaccine, therefore, the overall risk of influenza transmission is reduced by having a large number of children vaccinated, thus reducing their risk of infection
In the US, where there has been extensive use of LAIV for many years, serious illness amongst immunocompromised contacts who are inadvertently exposed to vaccine virus has never been observed. Expert doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital, who deal with many children with very serious immune problems, do not recommend keeping such children off school purely because of vaccination.
A tiny number of children who are extremely severely immunocompromised e.g. immediately after a bone marrow transplant, would not be attending school anyway because the risk from all the other infections that children pass to each other at school would be too great. It is important that all children with immune problems should themselves be vaccinated, usually with an injected inactivated vaccine. Similarly, healthy children who have family contacts who are very severely immunocompromised should be given an inactivated influenza vaccine.
(Source Public Health England, 2017)
Members of Muslim or Jewish religious communities may be concerned about using vaccines that contain gelatine from pigs (porcine gelatine). This statement from representatives of the Jewish community may help some patients/parents/carers to reach a decision about having the vaccine:
Rabbi Abraham Adler from the Kashrus and Medicines Information Service said:
“It should be noted that according to Jewish laws, there is no problem with porcine or other animal derived ingredients in non-oral products. This includes vaccines, including those administered via the nose, injections, suppositories, creams and ointments”.
However, we acknowledge that some groups within the British Muslim community may consider the porcine product to be forbidden. The final decision about whether parents have their child vaccinated is with them. In order to come to an informed decision they should be able to consider the evidence about the advantages and disadvantages of the vaccination. They may wish to seek advice from their faith leaders or other community leaders.
Fluenz Tetra and FluMist Quadrivalent are the only live attenuated flu vaccines available in Europe. Current policy is that only those who are in clinical risk groups and have clinical contra-indications to LAIV are able to receive an inactivated injectable vaccine as an alternative.