The nasal flu vaccine for children is finished for this flu season.
Children with these conditions can still get a flu vaccine as an injection:
- chronic heart disease, including acute coronary syndrome
- chronic liver disease
- chronic kidney failure
- chronic respiratory disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe asthma, or bronchopulmonary dysplasia
- chronic neurological disease including multiple sclerosis (MS), hereditary and degenerative disorders of the central nervous system
- Down syndrome
- a body mass index (BMI) over 40
- immunosuppression due to disease or treatment (including asplenia or hyposplenism, and all cancer patients)
- children with a moderate to severe neurodevelopmental disorder such as cerebral palsy
- children on long-term aspirin therapy
- any condition that can compromise respiratory function, like spinal cord injury, seizure disorder or other neuromuscular disorder, especially people also attending special schools or day centres
Why children should get the flu vaccine
The flu vaccine helps to protect children against flu.
Most children who get the flu have mild symptoms. But children and young people with long-term health conditions are at risk of serious complications from flu.
In some children, flu can lead to serious problems such as:
- inflammation of the brain (encephalitis)
Children with these complications may need hospital treatment. Some may need intensive care.
In the last 10 years in Ireland, almost 5,000 children were admitted to hospital with complications of flu. Almost 200 children had treatment in intensive care and 40 children died.
Type of vaccine for children
The injectable flu vaccine called quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIV) is still available for children at high risk.
Who should not get the flu vaccine
All vaccines are tested to make sure they will not harm your child.
Your child might have some mild side effects after their vaccine. Some of the side effects can be similar to flu. But they will not get the flu from the flu vaccine.
Serious side effects such as a severe allergic reaction are rare.
The most common side effects are mild and include:
- muscle aches
- pain and swelling where the injection was given
Some children get a fever (high temperature) after the vaccine. It is usually mild and goes away on its own.
These side effects should go away in a day or 2.
In very rare cases, Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) has been reported. GBS is a condition that affects the nerves in the body. It causes nerve inflammation and can cause pain, numbness, muscle weakness and difficulty walking. The risk of GBS after having the flu is greater than after getting the flu vaccine.
Generally, flu vaccines reduce the risk of infection by 40% to 60%.
But even if your child gets the vaccine, they could still get the flu. This is because the vaccine does not protect against 100% of infections.
If your child does not get the flu vaccine, they should take extra care to protect themselves from flu.
Protect your child from flu
As well as getting the vaccine, protect your child from flu by making sure they:
- wash their hands properly and often with soap and water or alcohol hand sanitiser
- cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue or their sleeve
- put used tissues into a bin