The flu vaccine and what parents need to know

The HSE are encouraging parents of children between the ages of 2 and 17 years to get the nasal spray flu vaccine for their child this year. The vaccine is free from participating GPs and pharmacies.

Children are twice as likely to get the flu as adults are, and they’re also a lot more likely than adults to get severe symptoms. That’s why it’s so important that parents avail of the free vaccination service for their children. Getting the flu vaccine can help reduce the risk of infection by 40 - 60 percent. The sooner children are vaccinated the better, as it takes 2 weeks before they are fully protected. With Christmas just around the corner, there is no better time to book a vaccine appointment.

Unlike most vaccines which are given as an injection, the nasal flu vaccine is given to children via a nasal spray, which is safe and effective. It’s given as a single spray in each nostril of your child’s nose.

Earlier this month, Dr Aparna Keegan from the National Immunisation Office, answered parents’ questions regarding the flu vaccine. Parents often ask why they should get their child vaccinated.

"It is really important to get your children vaccinated against the flu, even if they haven’t been sick with it before. Some children can get very sick with the flu so getting them vaccinated will protect them, and the rest of your family. Flu can sometimes lead to pneumonia, bronchitis, inflammation of the brain and other complications."

Some of these complications can lead to hospitalisation and even need treatment in ICU. Over the last 10 years almost 5,000 children were hospitalised due to complications of flu.

Dr Keegan reminded parents that “even if they don’t get seriously ill with the flu, they will still miss out of things like school, activities and time with friends. After missing out on so much during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is really important to get vaccinated to make sure they stay healthy over the winter, and help prevent the spread of flu to others."

The flu vaccine for children is safe and has been administered to millions of children worldwide. Most children only need one dose of the flu vaccine (some with underlying illnesses may need a second dose).

Dr Keegan confirmed that “it has been used in the US since 2003 and in the UK since 2013 and in Ireland since 2020, so it’s a really safe way to protect your child against flu this winter”

You can get the vaccine in your local pharmacy or through your GP.

“It’s quick, it’s simple and it’s pain free. If you go to HSE.ie, you can find a list of pharmacies in your area, so it is really simple this year to find somewhere to get the flu vaccine”

In response to parents’ concerns about their kids getting sick or having flu-like symptoms from the vaccine, Dr Keegan advised:

“Some children might get a headache, runny nose, muscle aches, a bit of tiredness or loss of appetite, but most of these get better on their own and it just lasts for a couple of days. You might need to give them some paracetamol if they have a high temperature, but most children are fine after that.”

She also explained what the vaccine is and emphasised how the flu vaccine can’t give your child the flu:

“The nasal spray flu vaccine contains a weakened live virus that helps your child build immunity, but most importantly it can’t give them the flu.”

In terms of when your child should get the flu vaccine, as flu season in Ireland starts from October and could last all the way until the end of April, the sooner your child is vaccinated the sooner they are protected for the winter ahead.

You can find out more information on the HSE.ie website

 

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