Protect yourself against flu
Information for those in secondary school.
- Eligible children
- Why you should have the flu vaccine
- Benefits of the vaccine
- Why young people are being offered the vaccine
- If you had the flu vaccination last year - you need another one this year
- How the vaccine will be given
- How the nasal spray works
- Side effects
- If you are not feeling well on the day
- Young people with a long-term health condition
- Long term health conditions that put you more at risk from flu
- Young people who shouldn't have the nasal vaccine
- The nasal vaccine and gelatine derived from pigs (porcine gelatine)
- 5 reasons to have the flu vaccine
- Futher information
The flu vaccine is offered free to:
- children aged two or three years old (on 31 August before flu vaccinations start in the autumn)
- all primary school-aged children
- some secondary school-aged children
- children with a health condition that puts them at greater risk from flu
Further information on vaccine eligibility each year is available on gov.im/flu.
Flu can be a very unpleasant illness causing fever, stuffy nose, dry cough, sore throat, aching muscles and joints, and extreme tiredness. This can last several days or more. Some people develop complications and need to go to hospital for treatment.
Having the vaccine will help protect you from what can be a very nasty illness. It can help you avoid having to miss out on the things you enjoy and disruption to your education.
The vaccine will help protect you against flu and reduces the chance of you spreading flu to others so in turn helps protect your family and friends.
It will help to reduce flu levels in the population in the winter when there may be pressure on health services with coronavirus (COVID-19) and other respiratory viruses in circulation.
Flu viruses change every year so the vaccine may be updated. For this reason, we recommend that you are vaccinated against flu again this year, even if vaccinated last year.
It is usually given as a nasal spray.
The nasal spray contains viruses that have been weakened to prevent them from causing flu but will help you to build up immunity.
The vaccine is absorbed quickly in the nose so, even if you sneeze immediately after having had the spray, there’s no need to worry that it hasn’t worked.
You may develop a runny or blocked nose, headache, general tiredness and some loss of appetite. However, these are much less serious than developing flu and its complications. Serious side-effects are uncommon.
The vaccination may be delayed if you have a fever. Also, if you have a heavily blocked or runny nose, it might stop the vaccine getting into your system. In this case, the flu vaccination can be postponed until your nasal symptoms have cleared up.
If you have a health condition that puts you at higher risk of serious complications from flu, you should have the flu vaccine every year. If you have one of these health conditions you can also ask your GP surgery to give you the vaccine. You can also ask your GP surgery to do this if, for example, you don’t want to wait until the school vaccination session.
These conditions include:
- serious breathing problems, such as asthma needing regular use of steroid inhaler or tablets
- serious heart conditions
- kidney or liver disease
- weakened immune system as a result of a condition or treatment with medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
- problems with the spleen, for example, sickle cell disease, or the spleen has been removed
- learning disability
- problems with the nervous system, such as cerebral palsy
The nasal spray vaccine is offered to young people as it is more effective in the programme than the injected vaccine. However, some young people with long term health conditions may not be able to have the nasal vaccine (see details below).
Your parents will be given a consent form to complete ahead of the vaccination, which will include questions to check whether it is suitable for you. They can contact the School Vaccination Team if they have any questions. If you cannot have the nasal spray, you will be offered an injectable flu vaccine.
You should have an injected flu vaccine if you:
- are currently wheezy or have been wheezy in the past 72 hours
- have a very weakened immune system or someone in your household needs isolation because they are severely immunosuppressed
- have a condition that needs salicylate treatment
- have had an anaphylactic reaction to a flu vaccine, or any of the components, in the past (other than egg)
Young people who have been vaccinated with the nasal spray should avoid close contact with people with very severely weakened immune systems (for example those who have just had a bone marrow transplant) for around two weeks following vaccination. If contact is likely or unavoidable then an alternative flu vaccine should be given.
If you’re not sure, check with the School Vaccination Team, or the nurse or GP at your surgery.
Your parents should seek the advice of your specialist, if you have:
- had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to egg in the past that required intensive care treatment
- asthma that’s being treated with steroid tablets or required intensive care treatment in hospital
The nasal vaccine contains a highly processed form of gelatine (porcine gelatine), which is used in a range of many essential medicines. The gelatine helps to keep the vaccine viruses stable so that the vaccine provides the best protection against flu.
The nasal vaccine is offered to children and young people as it is more effective in the programme than the injected vaccine. This is because it is easier to administer and considered better at reducing the spread of flu to others, who may be more vulnerable to the complications of flu.
However, if you are at high risk from flu due to one or more medical conditions or treatments and can’t have the nasal flu vaccine you should have the flu vaccine by injection. For those who may not accept the use of porcine gelatine in medical products, an alternative injectable vaccine is available. Your parents should discuss the options with the School Vaccination Team.
- Protect yourself
The vaccine will help protect you against flu and serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
- Protect your family and friends
Having the vaccine will help protect more vulnerable friends and family.
- No injection needed
The nasal spray is painless and easy to have.
- It’s better than having flu
The nasal spray helps protect against flu, has been given to millions worldwide and has an excellent safety record.
- Avoid lost opportunities
If you get flu, you may be unwell for several days and not be able to do the things you enjoy.
Talk to the School Vaccination Team, your GP, or practice nurse if you have any further questions.
Further information is available on gov.im/flu.
This page has been adapted with kind permission from UK Health Security Agency © Crown copyright 2023 Protect yourself against flu – information for those in secondary school.