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Influenza (flu) vaccine

  • Influenza vaccine (in-floo-en-zuh) is the most effective way to protect your child from becoming sick with influenza, commonly known as ‘the flu’. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over six months of age.

    Children with chronic medical conditions are at risk of more serious illness from the flu. If your child has a chronic medical condition, it is strongly recommended that they have an annual influenza vaccine. All household members should also be vaccinated to reduce the chances of your child being exposed to influenza.

    The flu vaccine is free for children aged six months to five years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, pregnant women and people with medical conditions (such as chronic heart or lung disease, low immunity or diabetes).

    The flu vaccine is made by many different companies, and different brands of the same vaccine have different names (e.g. FluQuadri, Fluarix Tetra).

    How is the influenza vaccine given?

    The vaccine is given into the muscle by injection, usually in the upper arm or in the thigh for babies by a trained healthcare professional. Children younger than nine years of age who are receiving the vaccine for the first time, require two doses given at least four weeks apart.

    When should I give the influenza vaccine?

    Influenza viruses change every year, so a new flu vaccine is developed annually to protect against the most common strains expected to be seen that year. The flu vaccine is recommended to be given every year, before the start of winter. The flu virus is most common from June to September in most parts of Australia.

    Possible side effects

    Vaccines are designed to prevent disease, but sometimes they have unwanted effects (side effects).

    Side effects of the flu vaccine include pain and redness at the site of injection. Less commonly, children may develop a fever or aches and pains, which last one to two days.

    The flu vaccine cannot cause influenza.

    All children must be observed for 15 minutes following the injection. 

    You should call an ambulance immediately if your child has any signs of a severe allergic reaction such as:

    • difficulty breathing or noisy breathing
    • swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
    • fainting

    There may be other side effects that are not listed in this fact sheet. If you notice anything unusual or are concerned about your child, see your doctor.

    Vaccine storage

    The flu vaccine should be stored in special fridges in pharmacies or clinics and not at home. Vaccines purchased from pharmacies should be collected on the way to your appointment for immediate injection.

    Key points to remember

    • The flu vaccine is recommended to be given every year at start of winter
    • Children younger than nine years of age who are receiving the flu vaccine for the first time require two doses given four weeks apart
    • The most common side effects of the flu vaccine are pain and redness at the site of injection

    For more information

    This fact sheet has been developed to provide practical advice about the use of this vaccine in children and young people and should be read in addition to the information supplied by the manufacturer which can be found at NPS MedicineWise.

    Common questions our doctors are asked

    Should I give my child the flu vaccine?
    The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone. Children can receive the vaccine from six months of age.

    It is highly recommended and free for young children, people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant woman and the elderly.

    Is the flu vaccine safe?
    All vaccines currently available in Australia must pass stringent safety testing before being approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

    When is the right time to give the flu vaccine?
    Usually, it is best to give the flu vaccine in April/May to ensure best protection during the peak flu season. However sometimes ‘out of season’ cases of flu can occur so it is never too late to vaccinate.

    My child has an allergy to egg, can they still receive the flu vaccine?
    Yes. Egg allergy or egg anaphylaxis does not increase the risk of allergy or side effects occurring after the flu vaccine. These children can still safely receive the vaccine in community vaccination clinics, GP clinics or from other immunisation providers.

    Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Immunisation Service and Medication Safety Committee. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.

    Developed February 2020.

    Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au. 

Disclaimer  

This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.