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03 Dec 2021

Free nasal spray flu vaccine available for all children aged between 2 and 17 in Donegal

The HSE is encouraging all parents to avail of this vaccine

Flu vaccine

Zoe has juvenile arthritis and will receive the vaccination for the immunocompromised

The HSE is asking parents of all children aged two to 17 years to get the free nasal spray flu vaccine. 

The organisation says that the nasal spray flu vaccine is a safe, effective and pain free way to help protect children against flu this winter. The flu vaccine will also help protect others, like siblings, parents, grandparents and those vulnerable.

Dr Aparna Keegan, Specialist in Public Health Medicine and Flu Lead with the HSE National Immunisation Office said: “Flu is a serious illness that can be dangerous in children too. The nasal spray flu vaccine is a very safe and effective vaccine and helps your child’s immune system produce antibodies that fight infection. 

“It cannot give your child the flu. If your child has had the flu vaccine and they come into contact with flu virus, these antibodies will help them fight the flu and reduce the risk of getting sick or needing to go to hospital.”

Participating GP practices and pharmacies give the nasal vaccine by spraying it once into each of the child’s nostrils. The flu vaccine and administration is free for everyone aged two to 17 years through the HSE vaccination programme.

According to the HSE, children are twice as likely as adults to get the flu. While most children who get the flu will have mild symptoms, some can get complications such as pneumonia or bronchitis and may need to go to hospital. Children, especially younger children, are also more likely than adults to get severe complications of flu.

In Ireland between 2009 and 2019, the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) reported:
-4,750 children needed hospital treatment because of complications of flu
-183 of these were admitted to intensive care
-41 children died.

Flu can cause serious illness in children, and children with chronic health conditions are most at risk of severe complications of flu.

Symptoms of flu in children include:
-High temperature
-Muscle pains
-Headache
-Extreme tiredness (fatigue).

Children also carry the flu virus in their system longer than adults do. It can spread easily to other children, like those in day-care centres and schools, and to older and vulnerable people around them. 

Dr Keegan said: “Getting your child vaccinated is the best way to protect them against flu this winter, and help reduce the spread of flu to others too. Other countries, including the UK, have been offering flu vaccine to children for many years and it’s great that the vaccine is now available for free here in Ireland for the second season.

“The nasal flu vaccine is also the recommended vaccine for children who may have chronic health conditions. We recommend speaking to a trusted health professional about the flu vaccine recommended for your child. If it’s not possible for them to get the nasal flu vaccine, they can get the flu injection instead.”

Children who are sick with flu can sometimes miss weeks in crèche, childcare and school. If a child becomes sick with flu, they will also miss out on their usual activities like hobbies and sports.

The HSE says that if enough children are vaccinated, fewer children and adults will need to see their doctor or need treatment in hospital because of flu.

Getting the nasal flu vaccine and other vaccines

Both flu and Covid-19 can cause serious illness.

Flu and Covid-19 are caused by different viruses and the flu vaccine does not protect against Covid-19.

If a child has had the Covid-19 vaccine, they should still get the flu vaccine.

For children aged 12 to 17 years, they can get the flu vaccine at the same time as the Covid-19 vaccine if they have not yet received it.

It is also safe for children to get the nasal flu vaccine at the same time as any of the vaccines that may be offered to them through the HSE’s schools immunisation programme. The 4-in-1 and MMR vaccines are offered in junior infants and the HPV, Tdap and MenACWY vaccine are offered to First Years.

Stephen Donnelly TD, Minister for Health is encouraging parents to avail of the free flu vaccine for children.

He said: “As children are more likely to contract the flu and become seriously ill from it, it is important to protect them and those around us by ensuring they receive their free vaccine as soon as possible. The nasal flu vaccine will help protect your child, your friends, your family and your colleagues, keeping us safer and healthier throughout the winter months.

“Flu and other respiratory illnesses have a significant impact on our health system, as well as the general health and wellbeing of the population each winter. The best way we can all work together to protect ourselves, our loved ones, our frontline healthcare workers and our health system as we continue to manage the Covid-19 pandemic is to get vaccinated.”

The HSE also recommends the flu vaccine for people in any one of these groups:
-Aged 65 and over
-A health care worker
-At any stage of pregnancy
-People with certain medical conditions which put them at increased risk from the complications of flu.

A full list of recommended groups and more information on the flu vaccine can be found at hse.ie/flu

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