Nasal Flu Vaccine Common Questions

Here are some common questions and answers about the nasal influenza (flu) vaccine.

We’ve never vaccinated children against influenza before, why now?

Influenza (flu) can be dangerous in children too. Children are twice as likely to get the flu than adults. Younger children are at high risk of developing complications from influenza like pneumonia, ear infections, rarely an inflammation of the brain or worsening of a chronic disease like serious heart disease and asthma. In the last 10 years in Ireland almost 5000 children were admitted to hospital because of influenza, almost 200 were admitted to intensive care and sadly 40 children died from complications of influenza.

The flu vaccine is the best protection against influenza in children. The flu vaccine also reduces the spread of influenza to others. Other countries, including the UK have been offering flu vaccine to children for many years.

Is the nasal flu vaccine for children a new vaccine?

No. Although it was first used in Ireland during the 2020/21 flu campaign, the nasal flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine) has been licensed for more than 15 years. It was first licensed in 2003. Since then it has been given to millions of children in many countries around the world, including the US, Canada, Finland and the UK. In the UK, the nasal flu vaccine has been given to children since 2013.

I’ve heard that the nasal flu vaccine is a live vaccine. What does that mean?

The nasal flu vaccine is a live attenuated vaccine. The word “attenuated” means that the vaccine is made with influenza viruses that are weakened so that they cannot cause influenza infection.

All live vaccines contain weakened viruses or bacteria. They don’t cause disease but instead stimulate the body to produce proteins called antibodies that fight infection.

Live vaccines have been given to children in Ireland since the 1950s, when the oral polio vaccine was first introduced. Live vaccines are given to children in Ireland today and include the rotavirus vaccine given to babies at 2 and 4 months, and the MMR vaccine given to children at 12 months and in junior infants.

I’ve heard that the nasal flu vaccine has genetically modified influenza virus in it?

The flu viruses in the nasal flu vaccine are weakened and are also adapted to cold.

Because the viruses are weakened, they don’t cause influenza infection. And because the viruses are also adapted to cold, they can’t infect the lungs and other parts of the body that are naturally at higher temperatures.

Is there aluminium in the nasal flu vaccine?

No, there is no aluminium in the nasal flu vaccine.

You can find a list of what is in the nasal flu vaccine by visiting the HPRA website and reading the patient information leaflet and the summary of product characteristics.

I’ve heard that children can shed flu vaccine after being vaccinated. What does this mean?

Vaccinated children can shed the weakened virus in the vaccine for a few days after vaccination but the virus does not survive for long outside the body. The weakened virus doesn’t cause disease, either in the person being vaccinated or in other people.

Since the vaccine was first licensed, there have been no reported cases of influenza passed from vaccinated children to their families or to their close contacts, including those who are pregnant.

I’ve heard that children can shed flu vaccine after being vaccinated. What does this mean for people with a weakened immune system?

Vaccinated children can shed the weakened virus in the vaccine for a few days after vaccination but the virus does not survive for long outside the body. The weakened virus doesn’t cause disease, either in the person being vaccinated or in other people.

As a precaution, if a child is living with someone who has a severely weakened immune system such as someone who has had a bone-marrow transplant, then the nasal flu vaccine isn’t advised for that child.  However, millions of doses of nasal flu vaccine have been given in the US for over 10 years and there have never been any cases reported of anyone with a severely weakened immune system becoming seriously ill with influenza because they were in contact with the nasal flu vaccine. 

If your child is living in the same house as someone who has a severely weakened immune system, talk to your doctor who will be able to advise you.

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This page was updated on 5 October 2021