Who can have the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine is given free on the NHS to people who:
- are 50 and over (including those who’ll be 50 by 31 March 2022)
- have certain health conditions
- are pregnant
- are in long-stay residential care
- receive a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
- live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)
- frontline health or social care workers
Where to get the flu vaccine
You can have the NHS flu vaccine at:
- your GP surgery
- a pharmacy offering the service
- your midwifery service if you’re pregnant
- a hospital appointment
If you do not have your flu vaccine at your GP surgery, you do not have to tell the surgery. This will be done for you.
The nasal spray flu vaccine is free on the NHS for:
- children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2021 – born between 1 September 2017 and 31 August 2019
- all primary school children (reception to year 6)
- all year 7 to year 11 children in secondary school
- children aged 2 to 17 years with long-term health conditions
If your child is aged between 6 months and 2 years and has a long-term health condition that makes them at higher risk from flu, they’ll be offered a flu vaccine injection instead of the nasal spray.
This is because the nasal spray is not licensed for children under 2 years.
The nasal spray vaccine offers the best protection for children aged 2 to 17 years. They will be offered the flu vaccine injection if the nasal spray vaccine is not suitable for them.
Children who should have the flu vaccine injection
Children with long-term health conditions
Children with long-term health conditions, such as diabetes or heart problems, are at higher risk from flu.
It’s important they’re vaccinated.
Examples of long-term health conditions
Where to have the flu vaccine
|Child’s age||Where to have the flu vaccine|
|From 6 months until 2 years
(with long-term condition)
|From 2 years until child
starts primary school
|All children at primary school||School|
|Year 7 to year 11 secondary school children||School|
|Children in reception to year 11
(with long-term condition)
|School or GP surgery|
(same ages as reception to year 11)
Home-schooled children should be invited for vaccination by the local healthcare team. If you do not hear from them, ask your child’s GP where they should go for vaccination.
Schoolchildren with a long-term health condition
You can ask the GP surgery to give the vaccine instead of having it at school if you prefer.
If your child is not in reception to year 11, ask the GP surgery to give the vaccine.
Important:What if my child is unwell on the day?
You may be asked to wait until your child is better before having the nasal spray flu vaccine if they have:
- a very blocked or runny nose – these might stop the vaccine getting into their system
- a high temperature
How the nasal spray flu vaccine is given
The vaccine is given as a spray squirted up each nostril. It’s quick and painless.
The vaccine will still work even if your child gets a runny nose, sneezes or blows their nose.
Your child will be given 2 doses if they’re under 9 years old and have:
- a long-term health condition that means they’re more at risk from flu
- never had a flu vaccine before
These doses are given 4 weeks apart.
How effective is the nasal spray flu vaccine?
The nasal spray flu vaccine gives children the best protection against flu.
It may take around 2 weeks for the flu vaccine to work.
Any children who catch flu after vaccination are less likely to be seriously ill or be admitted to hospital.
Side effects of the children’s flu vaccine
The nasal spray flu vaccine for children is very safe. Most side effects are mild and do not last long, such as:
- a runny or blocked nose
- a headache
- loss of appetite
If your child has the injected flu vaccine, side effects include:
- a sore arm (or thigh) where the injection was given
- a slightly raised temperature
- aching muscles
These side effects usually last for a day or 2.
What’s in the nasal spray flu vaccine?
The nasal spray flu vaccine contains small amounts of weakened flu viruses. They do not cause flu in children.
As the main flu viruses can change each year, a new nasal spray vaccine has to be given each year.
The brand of nasal spray flu vaccine available in the UK is called Fluenz Tetra.
The nasal spray vaccine contains small traces of pork gelatine. If this is not suitable, speak to your child’s nurse or doctor about your options.
Your child may be able to have an injected vaccine instead.
You can find a full list of ingredients in the Fluenz Tetra nasal spray patient information leaflet on the emc website.