Flu is a common infection in babies and children and can be very unpleasant for them. Children under the age of five have the highest hospital admission rates for flu compared to other age groups. For many years the flu vaccine has been offered to those who are most at risk of severe illness from flu. This includes pregnant women, those aged 65 and over, and those with long term health conditions, including children.
Since 2013, vaccination has gradually been extended to children. For most children this is a quick and painless nasal spray with live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV). LAIV contains an attenuated (weakened) vaccine virus that is also cold adapted so designed not to reproduce well at body temperature (37°C). The virus doesn’t replicate in the lungs but reproduces at the cooler temperatures found in the nasal mucosa. The child then produces antibodies, which protect against infection
The vaccine provides protection to individual children and helps reduce the spread of flu to their families, younger siblings, grandparents and the wider community. Annual administration of flu vaccine to children is expected to substantially reduce flu-related illness, GP consultations, hospital admissions and deaths
All children aged two, three and four can get this free vaccine at their general practice. In 2016 all primary school children in school years 1, 2, and 3 will also be offered the flu vaccine. Most vaccination sessions will take place in school, with a few areas offering it through community based schemes. Over the next few years, the programme will be extended to include children in other age groups. There are some children for whom the nasal spray is not suitable. If the child is in an at risk group and cannot have the nasal spray they will offer an injected vaccine instead. More information is available here:
Louise Letley, Nurse Manager (Research) | Immunisation Implementation & Planning, Public Health England