With cold and flu season fast approaching, it’s a question I am asked a lot;
‘Should my child have the flu vaccine?’
Like all things parenting – it’s about making an informed choice, so do your research and make a choice that you feel is right for you and your family.
Flu can be really unpleasant for children, with potentially serious complications, including bronchitis and pneumonia so the children’s flu vaccine is offered as a yearly nasal spray to young children to help protect them against this unpleasant illness.
While some may think that vaccinating against flu is just about protecting their little ones – it isn’t; it’s also about protecting the people who are unable to get flu shots. The ones whose immune systems can’t fight off a virus, and the ones already weak from battling serious illnesses such as cancer who have a weakened immunity.
This ‘herd’ idea of vaccinating means that when the majority of the population get the flu vaccine, it helps protects everyone as a whole. This is because there are fewer infected people to transmit the highly contagious illness.
So, if one unvaccinated person is surrounded by a crowd of vaccinated people, even though they didn’t get the vaccine, they’re still protected. (This is because the vaccinated people around them are unlikely to get the illness and transmit it to them.)
‘At what age should my child have the nasal spray flu vaccine?’
In the autumn/winter of 2018/19, the vaccine will be available free on the NHS for eligible children, including:
- children aged 2 and 3 on August 31 2018 – that is, children born between September 1 2014 and August 31 2016
- children in reception class and school years 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
- in some parts of the country, all primary school-aged children will be offered the vaccine (following a pilot in some areas)
- children aged 2 to 17 with long-term health conditions
‘Who will give my child the flu vaccination?’
- Children aged 2 and 3 will be given the vaccination at their general practice, usually by the practice nurse.
- Children who are 4 years old are also eligible for flu vaccination provided they were 3 on August 31 2018. These children should be offered the vaccination at their general practice.
- Children in reception class and school years 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 will be offered their vaccination in school. In a couple of areas it might be offered in primary care settings.
- Children who are home educated will also be offered the vaccine, provided they are in an eligible age group. Parents can obtain information about arrangements from their local NHS England Public Health Commissioning team.
‘What about the risks? I’ve read some scary stuff on the internet!’
The flu vaccine for children has a good safety record but like all vaccines, some children may experience side effects. The side effects linked with the flu nasal spray vaccine are almost always mild and short-lived.
Common side effects of the flu nasal spray vaccine
- a runny or blocked nose
- general tiredness
- loss of appetite
Rare side effects of the flu nasal spray vaccine
As with all vaccines, there’s a very small chance of a severe allergic reaction (known medically as anaphylaxis). The overall rate of anaphylaxis after vaccination is around 1 in 900,000 (so slightly more common than 1 in a million).
Anaphylaxis is very serious but it can be treated with adrenaline. When it happens, it does so within a few minutes of the vaccination. Staff who give vaccinations have all been trained to spot and deal with anaphylactic reactions and children recover completely with treatment.
‘What do other parents think about the flu vaccine for children?’
Ahead of my BBC radio interview on Friday 11th November discussing the flu vaccine for children, I asked the views of my parent followers on my facebook page.
The majority voted (80%) that they had or would, be vaccinating their little ones. The main reason for this was their children had extra health issues such as Asthma or their family members had medical conditions. Many said they had already suffered the flu themselves and didn’t want to risk their little ones suffering from it too.
Some parents were concerned by the contents of the vaccine and the ‘herd’ idea of immunisation, and made an informed choice not to vaccinate their child.
You can listen to my chat with BBC radio presenter Donna Alos today on BBC Radio Derby around 10.15am Friday 9th November. Donna has made the choice not to let her 7 year old have the flu vaccine.
Medical information gained from NHS site November 2018. For more information on the flu vaccine go to the NHS website here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/child-flu-vaccine/