Information for parents
Influenza immunisation is recommended for children
Influenza infection rates are generally highest in children and healthy children are the major cause of the spread of influenza viruses in the community.
Influenza vaccine can be used to immunise children aged 6 months and older and is especially recommended if they have an ongoing medical condition that may put them at higher risk of severe outcomes.
Children aged 6 months to under 9 years who have never received an influenza vaccine before should receive two doses four weeks apart, to help improve their immune response. Children in this age group who have received one or more influenza vaccine doses in the past only need one influenza vaccine dose each year.
Influenza immunisation may be FREE for some children aged from 6 months of age with an ongoing medical condition:
- Children aged 6 months to under 5 years who have had a stay in hospital for asthma or other breathing problems
- Chronic heart problems, excluding high cholesterol or high blood pressure if they have not caused problems with other organs
- Cerebrovascular disease
- Chronic breathing or lung problems, excluding asthma if regular preventative medicine is not needed
- Chronic kidney disease
- Cancer that is not in remission, excluding skin cancers if not invasive
- Other conditions (such as autoimmune disease, immune suppression, immune deficiency, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), transplant recipients, neuromuscular and central nervous system diseases, cochlear implant, error of metabolism at risk of major metabolic decompensation, pre- or post-splenectomy, Down syndrome, haemoglobinopathies and children on long term aspirin)
Influenza protection after immunisation
Influenza immunisation is effective in children when the influenza strains in the vaccine are a good match to the influenza strains circulating in the community. However, less evidence is available for children aged under 2 years. It takes up to two weeks after immunisation for the body to start developing protection against influenza.
Influenza immunisation can protect up to two-thirds of children who receive the vaccine from getting influenza disease. The immunisation can also protect about half of the immunised children aged 2–15 years old from being unwell enough with influenza to need hospital care.
Influenza immunisation doesn’t protect against the common cold or other viruses and diseases in circulation. Influenza immunisation does not protect against coronavirus infections.
Reactions to the vaccine
Common reactions are the body’s normal response to immunisation and usually resolve after a day or so. Usually these reactions consist of some pain or redness at the injection site and less often a fever or headache. If you are concerned though, please see your doctor or nurse.
Use of paracetamol following immunisation
The routine use of paracetamol to control fever either before or after the vaccine is given, is not recommended. Evidence shows that the laboratory measured immune response can be reduced. However, there is no evidence that this causes people to be less protected from disease. Paracetamol can be used for children who are still uncomfortable with a fever after appropriate removal of clothing and cool drinks have been provided or who have pain or significant discomfort after immunisation. It is important to follow the paracetamol dose instructions on the bottle.
After your child’s influenza immunisation
- You and your child will need to wait at the clinic or surgery for 20 minutes after the vaccine is given. This is to make sure treatment is quickly available if a rare, severe allergic reaction occurs.
- Common reactions are the body’s normal response to immunisation and usually resolve after a day or so. If these symptoms continue andor get worse, talk to your healthcare professional.
- It takes up to two weeks for the body to start developing protection against influenza. If your child is exposed to the influenza virus before or soon after immunisation, they can still get influenza.
- Remember, the influenza vaccine protects against a serious viral illness. It doesn’t protect against the common cold or other viruses and diseases in circulation.