Tuesday, 22 October 2013

flu nasal vaccine for 2-3 year olds - a parents guide

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Parents of children aged between 24 months and 4 years have been invited to have their child vaccinated against Flu this year.  This is the first stage of a vaccination programme that will over the next year or so see all children between 2 and 17 being vaccinated yearly.

While this will give the cases of flu a kick up the bum, by reducing the spread through children, I can’t help but wonder how informed we are as parents?



As with any new vaccine, it has to be licensed to be used in the UK.  And the flu nasal vaccine has been successfully used in the US for the past ten years.  So reassurance that this vaccine is safe and fully tested is good, however parents myself included seem to be a little misinformed over this new vaccine.  Previously the vaccine was in the form of an injection and as a Mum I know I always dread my little one’s having to have them, so a simple nasal spray is a great idea.  My son was petrified of the doctor after his last set of immunisations, and I’m glad that until Isabelle is ready to start school she will hopefully not have to experience the distress injections can cause.

I was invited to book Isabelle in to a clinic for her vaccination a couple of weeks ago, and thankfully she wasn’t bothered at all about it.  The letter sent to me was very basic simply asking us to call to make an appointment, sadly no information on the nasal spray or indeed that all 2-3 year olds would be getting them this year.  I had to assume that the information would be given to me when we went to the appointment. 

But we were in and out of our appointment in around 1 minute and other than being asked if Isabelle was okay to have eggs and if she had a cold, her vaccination went ahead.  I guess I didn’t really think about it until later in the day, when I realised I didn’t know anything about what she had just been given.  I was told that she would need to go back in four weeks for a booster of the vaccine and an appointment was made for her.  We were not given any further information about possible reactions or how to treat them.

I am sure I am not alone in not being given any information about this, as when discussing this with other parents I discovered that not everyone was being asked to go back for a booster.  There seemed to be a lot of conflicting advice given to parents and virtually no information about the vaccine itself.  Initially I wanted to do some research to find out exactly what the correct dosage should be and also if there was anything I could find out about the vaccine.  What I have found has answered these questions but sadly created new ones and I have found some quite worrying information along the way!

So two days worth of research later this is what i have found………

The vaccine recommended for this years programme is called Fluenz and has as I said earlier been used in the US.
Dosage – I looked at several websites to try and find the dosage guidelines thinking that I would find a definitive answer but what I found was rather confusing……….
- The Fluenz website,  The European Medicines Agency website, netdoctor.co.uk and a company that manufactures the vaccines all clearly state that a second dose 4 weeks after the first is needed.
- patient.co.uk said that a second dose is not needed unless the child being vaccinated is in a clinical risk group (more on that later), Public Health England said no second dose and so did the gov.uk website.
Why is there so much conflicting advice?  Surely the advice should be the same?
After more hours looking on the Internet and reading a lot of guidance notes for professionals I finally found what I needed to know. 

In a nutshell the manufacturers recommend two doses of Fluenz and this seems to be what was passed on initially to GP’s.  The government have taken the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)., who have said that a single dose should be given.  So if like me you were advised to go for a second booster it won’t be given.  I have actually since received a letter from my GP saying that in fact my daughter does not need a second dose.

While trying to find an answer about dosage I found lots of information on potential side effects on Fluenz, and as I wasn’t given this information at the time but would have liked to know I want to share it with you.

A lot of this may not mean anything to you unless it affects your child but may be helpful.

If your child has had a reaction to any of the following you should be aware the vaccine has the following present:
  • eggs/gentamicin
  • gelatin/sucrose/dibasic
  • potassium phosphate
  • monobasic potassium phosphate
  • arginine hydrochloride
  • monosodium glutamate monohydrate
  • water for injections

there is also a checklist that I can see would be important to some parents and you may need to be aware of:

if your child is :
  • clinically immuno deficient
  • is in close contact with people who are
  • has severe asthma or is wheezing
  • is on salicylate therapy (aspirin)
  • receiving flu antivirals
  • has a heavily blocked or runny nose
I was personally not asked about any of the above. But I would think people who have a child that any of the above apply to would like to know. 

On further investigation I found that anyone receiving chemotherapy should not be in close contact with a child who has recently had the vaccine, with all 2-3 year olds being offered the vaccine i would imagine this could apply to quite a number of people.  This sort of information I would think may not be on a child's medical records?

I also wanted to know of any possible reactions the vaccine could cause

  • feeling unwell (cold symptoms) very common
  • fever and muscle pain (common)
  • nosebleed/ viral rash (rare)
There is as with all vaccines a small chance that your child could have a severe reaction and usually parents are asked to wait in the doctor's surgery for at least 20 minutes after.  This was not possible after Isabelle's vaccine due to the sheer number of children being vaccinated!


I feel we as parents should be better informed about what is being given to our children, and sadly this was not the case with this years winter flu vaccine programme.  I hope that the information given on here has helped a bit if you were looking for further/some information about.

I am in no way a medically trained person and the information given in this post is taken directly from websites and documents that are easily found on the Internet.

As always I hope this is helpful, and would love to know your experiences good or bad with the flu vaccine this year