New research reveals that 4 in 10 parents hesitate to get their children vaccinated despite the risks

Now that the midterm is here, it’s the perfect time to get your family ready for the upcoming winter months. Finding the time to get to your local GP or pharmacy can be difficult between school runs and after school activities but since the children have time off, this week is ideal to get them booked in for their winter flu vaccine.

New research from the Irish Patients Association (IPA) reveals that 4 in 10 parents hesitate to get their children the free winter flu vaccine. Despite 1,274 children being hospitalised with the virus during the flu season last year, over a quarter of parents perceive the winter flu as not having serious consequences for their children. In response to this, Mayo GAA Star Aidan O’Shea, Pharmacist Laura Dowling, and Professor of Immunology Christine Loscher have joined forces with the IPA to launch the ‘Flunited’ campaign, urging parents to protect their children from flu this winter.

The ‘Flunited’ campaign, emphasizes the importance of the children’s flu vaccine this winter, rallying parents and guardians to unite with the ‘Flunited’ team to combat the annual flu outbreak as a collective effort! The campaign aims to highlight that for young children sometimes the consequences of flu can be serious and can lead to problems such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and inflammation of the brain (encephalitis).

The children’s flu vaccine, administered as a free nasal spray to all children 2-12 and children aged 13-17 at high risk of flu, is accessible at local GPs, participating pharmacies, and, for the first time this year, in participating schools across the country.

During the 2022/2023 flu season, a staggering 1,274 children were hospitalised with the virus. Despite these alarming statistics, recent research conducted by Empathy Research on behalf of IPA has revealed that over 4 in 10 parents (44%) hesitate to vaccinate their children against winter flu.

Professor of Immunology Christine Loscher says, “Children are twice as likely to catch flu as adults. Children with complications may need hospital treatment. Some may need intensive care. In the past 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. So it’s key parents are aware of the risks.”

The research also uncovered insights into parental attitudes toward the children’s flu vaccine including:

  • Females (49%) exhibit a higher likelihood of hesitancy compared to males (38%)
  • Parents aged 34-44 (53%) and those in Connacht/Ulster (56%) are more likely to express hesitancy.
  • Over 6 in 10 parents who hesitated (62%) expressed concerns about potential adverse reactions, while just over a quarter (26%) believed that the flu does not have serious consequences in children.
  • More than half (51%) of parents reported that their children missed school days in the last year due to flu or its complications. The impact of these missed school days includes significant learning opportunities lost (57%) and parents having to take time off work to care for their children (36%).

Slightly over half (51%) of parents are aware that flu can have severe consequences in children, such as ear or respiratory infections. More than three-quarters (77%) of parents are aware that children are significant flu spreaders, capable of longer contagious periods compared to adults.

Speaking at the campaign launch, Aidan O’Shea said: “As a Dad, I know everyday life is disrupted when children are sick. This impacts not only their well-being but parents’ work, routine, and kids’ education. We all have a responsibility to stop the spread. So don’t let the flu take the field – Join Flunited’s winning team!”

Stephen McMahon of the Irish Patients Association, strongly advocated or collective action, saying: “Together, we will guarantee a robust, flu-free season for schools and households throughout the nation.”

This flu season, all children aged 2-12 years will be offered the flu vaccine free of charge at participating schools, pharmacies, and GP practices. Children aged 13-17 at high risk of flu can also get the children’s nasal flu vaccine for free. Please speak with your pharmacist or GP to see if your child is eligible.


*Research was conducted by Empathy Research through an online survey across a nationally representative sample of 460 parents in Ireland. Research was conducted amongst members of Empathy Research’s proprietary research panel Fieldwork was conducted In October 2023. The sample size of N=460 results in a margin of error of +/- 5%.


Brought to you by AstraZeneca Ireland