Guest blogs

Catch the vaccine, not the flu

Guest Blog Post produced and funded by AstraZeneca.
Intended for Great Britain Public

February brings many joys for children and their families: days slowly starting to get longer, winter walks with hot chocolates in hand, and settling back into a normal routine after the winter holiday hustle and bustle. Many children enjoy being back at school with their friends, excited for the opportunities that come along with the start of the New Year and a new term. But in addition to these seasonal joys, February also brings a less welcome visitor: the flu.

Flu season most often occurs in winter and typically peaks between January and March each year, leaving sick children and families in its wake.1 It’s estimated that 1 in 10 children could catch the flu this season, putting many others at risk.2 Flu is infectious and spreads easily to others from coughs and sneezes, with flu germs living on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.3 The virus spreads quickly amongst children. Not only do children stay infectious longer than adults, but a survey also revealed two-thirds of children don’t wash their hands, 48% don’t cover their mouths to sneeze or cough and a further 55% pick their nose.4,5 When kids are being kids, it’s no wonder the virus can make its way around.


Often more than “just a bad cold,” the flu can be miserable for children and young people. Although sharing similar symptoms, the flu is often worse than the common cold, and symptoms often tend to be more severe and appear quickly, often starting within a few hours after coming in contact with the virus.3 Flu can cause a fever, aching muscles, extreme tiredness, a stuffy nose, sore throat and dry cough.6,7 Some may also experience headaches, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, diarrhoea or tummy pain, and nausea.3 Beyond feeling ill, the flu can lead to complications, such as a middle ear infection, respiratory complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and even hospitalisation, particularly for children under five years of age. 7,8 Flu can affect children’s back to school plans, as it can take up to around 7 days to recover from the illness; this means children may not only miss out on time spent with their friends but are absent from valuable learning time in class. 9 The flu presents difficulties for families as well, with parents often having to take time off work and the risk of other family members catching the virus as well.10

The child flu vaccine can help children fight off the illness, as it helps to build up a child’s immunity to the virus, reducing their chances of catching the flu. 7 This means that if your child comes into contact with these flu viruses after receiving their flu vaccine, their immune system will be more prepared to fight off the infection.7,11

The child flu vaccine can make the flu virus less transmissible, which can help reduce the spread of flu; this can help protect those in your family who may be at greater risk from flu, such as grandparents, or those with long-term health conditions.7,11 You can learn more about the child flu vaccination programme by contacting your healthcare team or by visiting, an AstraZeneca disease awareness website.

This winter, those eligible for a free child flu vaccine are all 2 and 3 year olds, all primary school children, and secondary school-age children up to years 9 and years 10 and 11 if available in England, and up to years 11 in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – full details can be found here (an AstraZeneca disease awareness website).12-16 This extends to those from 6 months to 17 years old with certain health conditions. For full eligibility criteria, check with your healthcare team.

Eligible children from two years old can receive a free nasal flu vaccine, given as a single spray in each nostril. 7 This is a quick and needle-free vaccination that can help protect your child against flu.17 If the nasal spray is not suitable for your child, an alternative injectable flu vaccine may be offered. 7

These vaccines are administered in schools by immunisation teams, in locally run community clinics, and in GP practices.

Some parents may be concerned about the use of porcine gelatine in the production of the nasal flu vaccine. The gelatine used is highly purified and broken down so it is different from the gelatine in food; as a result, no animal DNA is detectable in the final product.7,18 Some faith communities accept the use of porcine gelatine medical products – however the decision to vaccinate your child with the nasal flu vaccine is still your choice.18

If your child gets any side effects after receiving the vaccination, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse. You can report side effects directly via the Yellow Card Scheme at By reporting side effects, you can help provide more information on the safety of medicines.

To learn more about childhood flu vaccination, speak to your GP or healthcare team, or visit (an AstraZeneca disease awareness website) to learn about flu, child flu vaccination, side effects, find answers to frequently asked questions and more.

GB-41152 February 2023


  1. GOV.UK. Seasonal Influenza: Guidance, Data and Analysis. 17 November 2021. Last Accessed January 2023. Available at:
  2. Global influenza strategy 2019-2030. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2019.
  3. NHS website. Flu. September 2019. Last Accessed January 2023 Available at:
  4. Usonis V et al. BMC Infect Dis. 2010;10:168.
  5. AstraZeneca UK Ltd. Data on File. ID: REF-65291. October 2019.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seasonal Influenza, Symptoms & Diagnosis, Cold Versus Flu. July 2021. Last Accessed January 2023 Available at:
  7. Public Health England: Protecting your child against flu. Flu immunisation in England. May 2022. Last Accessed January 2023 Available at:
  8. Cromer D et al. J. Infect. 2014;68(4):363-371.
  9. Willacy H. Influenza and Flu-like illness. September 2022. Last Accessed January 2023 Available at:
  10. Ambrose CS, Antonova EN. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis.2014;33(4):569-575 doi: 10.1007/s10096-013-1986-6.
  11. Mameli C, et al. Front. Pediatr. 2019;7:317 doi:
  12. NI Direct government services: Last Accessed January 2023.
  13. GOV.UK. Statements of amendments to annual flu letter-21 July 2022. Last Accessed January 2023.
  14. Waite, Ramsey & Russell. The NHS influenza immunisation programme 2022 to 2023 letter. Last Accessed January 2023.
  15. Atherton, The Welsh Health Circular, Reimbursable vaccines and eligible cohorts for the 2022/23 NHS Seasonal Influenza (flu) vaccination programme. Last Accessed January 2023.
  16. CMO letter 2022/23. Last Accessed January 2023.
  17. NHS Website. Child flu vaccine. Last Accessed January 2023.
  18. Public Health England. NHS. Vaccines and porcine gelatine. August 2019. Last Accessed January 2023. Available at: