Flu or Flu-like illness in chronically ill or disabled children

The influenza (flu) vaccine

Children with a long term medical condition or disability can become seriously ill if they have flu or flu-like illness because they are more at risk of developing complications. 

The nasal vaccine for children is a live attenuated influenza vaccine (it comes as a spray). It was offered as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme in 2015/16 to:
  • ‘at risk’ children aged 2-17 years old
  • all children aged two, three and four years old
  • children in school years one and two
‘At risk’ children aged 6 months to 2 years are offered the inactivated injected influenza vaccine. The parents we talked to described how they chose whether or not to give their child the flu vaccine, and what influenced their thinking. Those parents who chose to vaccinate their children said they believed that vaccination helped their child avoid flu or flu-like illness altogether or could reduce its frequency or severity.
Some parents chose not to get their children vaccinated. Adam’s son doesn’t have it every year, depending on what his doctor advises. The option to have the vaccine as a nasal spray has made a big difference to Henry’s decision to have the flu vaccine. Previously, when he had the injection it caused a swollen reaction on his arm and he decided not to have it for two years. Now the nasal spray is available he is having the vaccine again annually.
Clare’s daughter has been having the flu vaccine for years and she “is very well....in terms of her everyday health, she’s very robust, very resilient.”
Some parents also had the flu vaccine themselves so that they would be able to care for their children or to reduce the chances of them passing on the virus. Lyndey and her husband paid for the vaccination every year. Alfie has leukaemia and everyone who is around him regularly has the flu vaccine.
Clare was in favour of the flu vaccine being available more widely to children. She says, “although it might not be as serious for some children as it is for others it is still a nasty illness and you know, it can be prevented in part.”

Children with a long term medical condition or disability have usually experienced a lot of injections, cannulas and treatment in their lifetime. Having another injection is often distressing and it was sometimes difficult for parents to take their child to have the vaccine.
Arranging to have the flu vaccine through the GP was not always straightforward according to some parents. Matias’s dad was pleased to get a letter and text message reminder every year and said the system worked well in their case. Others said they had not been reminded to get their children vaccinated. Adam’s son had experienced a delay in getting it done because he had frequent viral infections and he had to be well to have the vaccine. Hyacinth and Nia said that after not taking it up one year they didn’t receive a notification of it again the following year and were unaware that they were still eligible for it. Alex had an egg allergy and he needed to have a different type of vaccine. It was difficult getting it arranged but taking part in a clinical trial meant that he could now have the vaccine as a nasal spray.


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