Nasal spray flu vaccine
The nasal spray flu vaccine is offered to toddlers, pre-school children and children in primary school. It's also offered to most children aged up to 17 years in at-risk groups.
The vaccine used is Fluenz Tetra®.
Download our leaflets on flu vaccination for toddlers and pre-school children and flu vaccination for primary school children.
Why is my child being offered the flu vaccine?
Vaccinating your child will help protect them against infection with the flu virus. Children with certain conditions are at greater risk of serious illness if they catch flu.
Children can spread the virus quickly to others so vaccinating them can reduce the chances of it spreading further. The vaccine therefore helps protect any brothers and sisters, and other family members and friends, including parents and grandparents.
Fluenz Tetra®, which is the name of the flu vaccine offered to children, is very effective and the spread of flu should be reduced by using it.
Why is the flu vaccine given to children as a nasal spray?
The vaccine is given as a nasal spray up each nostril because it’s effective this way and easier for your child.
Your child can breathe normally while the vaccine is being given. There is no need to actively inhale or sniff.
For medical reasons, a very small number of children will not be able to receive the nasal spray. They will be given a different flu vaccine by injection instead.
When will the nasal spray be offered?
For toddlers (aged 2 years and older) and pre-school children, you will receive an invite from your GP in the autumn to attend the surgery and get the vaccine.
Children from the ages of 6 months to 2 years with conditions that put them more at risk of complications from flu will be invited by their GP for the flu vaccine.
Secondary school children with similar at-risk conditions will also be invited by their GP for the flu vaccine.
For primary school children, the vaccine is offered to all children between October and December by the school health service.
If your child does not get the vaccine in school, for example if they are not at school on the day it’s offered, then you can contact your GP surgery to get it. This is especially important if your child is in one of the at-risk groups.
The nasal spray vaccine should be used in most children aged 2-17 years old.
I’ve heard that the nasal spray contains live flu virus. Does this mean my child will get the flu?
No. The nasal spray contains viruses that have been weakened to prevent it causing flu.
The spray helps your child build up immunity in the same way as a natural infection (but without the nasty symptoms).
For this reason, the live nasal spray vaccine is more effective than injected vaccines, particularly in young children.
Are there any children who shouldn’t have the nasal spray?
Children with weakened immune systems may not be able to handle the live viruses in the nasal spray. If your child has a weakened immune system, it’s important to tell the person giving the vaccine.
These children still need to be vaccinated, but it should be through an injection.
Also, your child should not have the nasal spray if they had a severe reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or any substances in it, or if they are on certain medications.
For toddlers and pre-school children, tell the person giving your child the vaccine about any allergies your child has and medications they are taking, so the person can decide which vaccine is best.
For primary school children, list any allergies and medicines they are taking on the consent form so the nurse can decide if they can have the vaccine.
If your child is taking salicylates including acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), they should not receive the nasal spray.
The nasal spray is not recommended for children with active wheezing at the time of vaccination or in the 3 days before vaccination, or children who have very severe asthma.
For toddlers and pre-school children, it’s very important you tell the person giving the vaccine if your child has been wheezy in the previous 3 days. There are alternative flu vaccines available, however, so speak to your GP for advice.
For primary school children, it’s very important to give full details on the consent form of any inhalers, medicines or tablets your child is on, including the name, dose and how often they are taken.
If this situation changes after you have returned the form, but before your child has had the vaccine, you should tell the school nurse.
Are there any side effects from the nasal spray?
The nasal spray is a safe vaccine. A runny or stuffed nose is the most common side effect.
The spray is absorbed very quickly, so even if your child gets a runny nose or sneezes immediately after getting the vaccine, there’s no need to worry that it hasn’t worked.
Full details about the vaccine, including the side effects, are provided in the Fluenz Tetra® patient information leaflet.
Should my child get the nasal flu vaccine if there is someone at home who has a weakened immune system?
Although the nasal spray is a live virus, there have been no reported cases of infections in people with weakened immune systems who are in contact with children who have received the vaccine.
If a child is in close contact with someone who is very immunocompromised, for example a bone marrow transplant patient who requires isolation, the child can be given the vaccine by injection instead.
Doesn’t Fluenz Tetra® contain ingredients that come from pork? What does that mean for children from some faith groups?
Fluenz Tetra® vaccine does contain a very small amount of gelatine that comes from pork.
Gelatine is commonly used in a range of medicines. It’s highly purified and used to stabilise the vaccine. A number of religious leaders have stated that it’s acceptable to have this in a medicine form.
However, it’s up to individuals to decide if they find this acceptable for their child. If you don’t wish your child to have this vaccine, you can request the injection, which doesn’t contain pork gelatine.
Does the nasal spray protect my child for life?
No. The flu virus can change every year and a new vaccine has to be made to match it.
Next year’s nasal spray may contain different viruses from this year’s vaccine. This is why the nasal spray is offered every year.