Influenza vaccine for children

Information for parents and caregivers

All children from 6 months of age can benefit from getting the flu vaccine every year. It is especially important for children with certain long-term health conditions. It's also important for women in pregnancy.

On this page, you will find information about:

Influenza (flu) vaccine for 2022

In 2022 the influenza immunisation programme starts on 1 April and runs to 31 December.

In 2022, your child can have a flu vaccination from 1 April. Everyone from 6 months of age is recommended to get a flu vaccination EACH year to protect themselves and to reduce the spread of flu. The flu vaccine is free for some children. Read more about the eligibility criteria.

Getting the flu vaccine is more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic 

  • In the past few years, COVID-19-related restrictions resulted in a lower than usual flu season. Experts are uncertain how lifting the COVID-19 restrictions will affect the upcoming season. Natural infection fighting responses (immunity) to flu is expected to be lower than usual, potentially putting more vulnerable people at risk of serious illness or death.

Timing

  • Influenza viruses change every year, so a new flu vaccine is developed every year to protect against the most common strains expected to be seen that year. It is best to give your child the flu vaccine in Autumn, before the start of winter (June) when the flu is around the most.
  • The flu vaccine can be given at the same time or immediately before or after the COVID-19 vaccine. If given at the same time, your child will receive the vaccines at separate places on your arms and with different syringes. Read more about COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines.

Why do children need the flu vaccine?

To protect your child
The flu is a viral infection that can be serious and sometimes life-threatening – it's not the same as having a bad cold. Even if your child is fit and healthy, they can catch the flu. The flu vaccine can help stop your child getting very sick and prevent them needing hospital care.

Flu vaccination is especially important for children with certain long-term (chronic) health conditions such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes. This is because these children are most likely to develop complications from the flu, such as chest infections. If your child does have a long-term condition, make sure they have their flu vaccination every year before winter starts. All household members should also be vaccinated to reduce the chances of your child being exposed to the flu.

To protect your family/whānau
The flu virus is very easy to catch and can affect anyone. It spreads through the air by coughing and sneezing, as well as by hands, cups and other objects that have been in contact with an infected person's mouth or nose. Many people don’t know they have the flu as they do not feel ill. But they can still pass it on and make other people very sick. Young children, babies, pregnant women and older people are more likely to get sick with the flu. 

Make sure your whānau is ready to prevent the flu each year – ask your nurse or doctor about flu vaccination, including its cost, or phone 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863). 

At what age should my child get the flu vaccine?

All children from 6 months of age can benefit from flu vaccination. 
Image credit: Health Navigator NZ

How well does the flu vaccine work?

Giving your child the flu vaccine may not stop them getting the flu, but it should stop them getting very sick and prevent them needing hospital care. It takes up to 2 weeks after getting the flu vaccine for your child's infection fighting system to start protecting them against flu.

Research has shown that giving children the flu vaccine has the following benefits: 

Image credit: Health Navigator NZ

Where can you get the flu vaccination for your child?

Your child can get their flu vaccination at your family doctor/general practice and some pharmacies.

Always call your family doctor/general practice or pharmacy ahead of time to find out if they offer this service, the cost and whether they have the vaccine in stock.

Is the flu vaccine free?

The flu vaccine is free for some children with certain long-term health conditions, who may develop complications from the flu. It is also free for children aged 4 years or under who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness (including measles) or have a history of serious respiratory illness. 

Read more about the 
eligibility criteria.  For more information, talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist, or call 0800 466 863.

If your child is not eligible for a free flu jab, it costs between $25 and $45 depending on the vaccine and provider. 

How many doses of the flu vaccine does my child need?

The number of doses (1 or 2) will depend on your child's age and whether they have had the flu vaccine previously. 

  • Children between 6 months and 9 years of age: for their first ever flu vaccination, they need 2 doses, 4 weeks apart. They only need 1 dose if they have had a flu vaccination before.
  • Children 9 years of age or older only need 1 dose. 

Children younger than 9 years need 2 doses initially because it is unlikely they have had the flu previously and may not have any natural infection fighting responses (immunity) to the flu.

Which flu vaccinations are available for my child?

The following flu vaccines will be available in 2022:

  • Afluria Quad: For children 3 years and older.
  • Afluria Quad Junior: For children aged 6–35 months (under 3 years)
  • Fluquadri: For children 6 months and older (cost involved as it is not funded).

The vaccines each contain the same ingredients. If your child is eligible for a free flu vaccine, they will be given the Alfuria Quad or Alfluria Quad Junior brand depending on their age. 

Can a flu vaccination give my child the flu?

Your child cannot catch the flu from a flu vaccination as there is no live virus in the flu vaccine. 

Can a flu vaccination make my child sick?

Most people have no reaction or a mild reaction to a flu vaccination. Your child may have one or more of the following responses after the vaccination:

  • soreness, redness or swelling where the vaccine was given
  • fever
  • aches.

These are usually mild and only last 1 or 2 days.

Should I give my child paracetamol before or after the flu vaccine?

  • You don't need to give babies and children paracetamol before or after vaccination. There is some evidence that paracetamol may reduce the effectiveness of childhood vaccinations.
  • If your child develops a fever after their vaccination, use a cool cloth to wipe their face, hands and neck and keep your child in lightweight clothing and bedding, such as a singlet and pants covered by a sheet. Read more about fever in children. 
  • If your child is miserable because of the fever, you can give paracetamol to make them more comfortable. Read more about paracetamol for children. 

Can my child still get the flu even if they have had a flu vaccination?

Vaccination is not 100% effective for all people, so some vaccinated people may still get the flu. If they do, symptoms are usually milder than if they had not had a flu vaccination. If you'd like to know more about the effectiveness of flu vaccination, see the Fightflu website.

Can my child have the flu vaccine if they have an allergy to egg?

Yes, the brands of the flu vaccine for the 2022 flu season can be given to people with egg allergy. Studies have shown that flu vaccines containing one microgram or less of ovalbumin do not trigger anaphylaxis in sensitive people. The residual ovalbumin in 1 dose of the flu vaccine for the 2022 is below this limit.

Apart from people who have had a previous severe allergic reaction to a flu vaccination in the past, anyone can have a flu vaccination. 

Learn more

The following links have more information on the flu vaccine.

Frequently asked questions about the flu vaccine Health Navigator NZ
Flu (influenza) vaccines Ministry of Health, NZ
Influenza (flu) topics Health Navigator NZ
Influenza disease, vaccination and children The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ

References

  1. 2022 influenza vaccines The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
  2. Everything you need to know about flu 2022 The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
  3. Influenza vaccines The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
  4. Vaccine administration – overview The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
Credits: Health Navigator Pharmacists. Reviewed By: Maya Patel, MPharm PGDipClinPharm, Auckland Last reviewed: 31 Mar 2022