The HSE encourages parents of all children aged 2 to 17 years to avail of a free nasal spray flu vaccine.
According to the HSE, the nasal spray flu vaccine is a safe, effective and pain-free way to help protect children against flu this winter.
The flu vaccine will also help protect others – siblings, parents, grandparents – and those vulnerable. Participating GP practices and pharmacies give the nasal vaccine by spraying it once into each of the child’s nostrils.
The flu vaccine and administration is free for everyone aged 2 to 17 years through the HSE vaccination programme.
Nasal spray flu vaccine
This year, the HSE recommends the free flu vaccine for people in any one of these groups:
- Aged 65 and over;
- A health care worker;
- A child aged 2 – 17;
- At any stage of pregnancy;
- People with certain medical conditions that puts them at increased risk from the complications of flu.
Flu in children
According to statistics, children are twice as likely as adults to get the flu.
While most children who get the flu will have mild symptoms, some can get complications such as pneumonia or bronchitis and may need to go to hospital.
Children, especially younger children, are also more likely than adults to get severe complications of flu.
In Ireland, between 2009 and 2019, the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) reported:
- 4,750 children needed hospital treatment because of complications of flu;
- 183 of these were admitted to intensive care;
- 41 children died.
Flu can cause serious illness in children. Children with chronic health conditions are most at risk of severe complications of flu.
Symptoms of flu in children include:
- High temperature;
- Muscle pains;
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue).
Children also carry the flu virus in their system longer than adults do.
It can spread easily to other children, like those in day-care centres and schools, and older and vulnerable people around them. The flu vaccine gives children the best protection against flu.
Children who are sick with flu can sometimes miss weeks in crèche, childcare and school. If a child becomes sick with flu, they will also miss out on their usual activities like hobbies and sports.
If enough children are vaccinated, fewer children and adults will need to see their doctor or need treatment in hospital because of flu.
The HSE stressed that both flu and COVID-19 can cause serious illness.
Different viruses cause the flu and COVID-19, and the flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19.
If a child has had the COVID-19 vaccine, they should still get the flu vaccine.
Children aged 12-17 years can get the flu vaccine at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine if they have not yet received it.
It is also safe for children to get the nasal flu vaccine simultaneously as any of the vaccines that may be offered to them through the HSE’s schools immunisation programme.
The 4 in 1 and MMR vaccine are offered in junior infants, and the HPV, Tdap and MenACWY vaccine is offered to first years.
Reduce the spread
Dr Aparna Keegan, specialist in public health medicine and flu lead, HSE National Immunisation Office, said: “Flu is a serious illness that can be dangerous in children too.”
“The nasal spray flu vaccine is a very safe and effective vaccine and helps your child’s immune system produce antibodies that fight infection.”
“It cannot give your child the flu. If your child has had the flu vaccine and they come into contact with flu virus, these antibodies will help them fight the flu and reduce the risk of getting sick or needing to go to hospital.”
“Getting your child vaccinated is the best way to protect them against flu this winter and help reduce the spread of flu to others too.”
Stephen Donnelly TD, Minister for Health, said:
“Flu and other respiratory illnesses have a significant impact on our health system, as well as the general health and wellbeing of the population each winter.”
“I would encourage all parents of children between 2 and 17 years old to avail of a free flu vaccine for your child.”
“As children are more likely to contract the flu and become seriously ill from it, it is important to protect them and those around us by ensuring they receive their free vaccine as soon as possible.”
“The nasal flu vaccine will help protect your child, your friends, your family and your colleagues, keeping us safer and healthier throughout the winter months.”