Children and the Flu

Flu Vaccine for Children

Which vaccine should my child get?
All children 6 months and older should get an annual influenza (flu) vaccine. A flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu. This year, both the injected vaccine (shot) and a nasal spray vaccine are available. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends either one as safe and effective for children — the injected vaccine is available for anyone over 6 months old, and the nasal spray for anyone over 2 years old. Children with asthma or with weakened immune systems should not receive the nasal spray as it contains a live, but weakened, form of the virus. Discuss with your pediatrician which version of the vaccine is right for your child.

Why should I get my child vaccinated?
Each year, many children get sick with the flu; some are hospitalized, and some can die. Young children are the most likely to get sick with the flu; children younger than 5 years are at high risk of getting serious flu complications. Vaccinating your child is the best way to protect them. This year especially, with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) circulating, things are more uncertain about how sick the flu could make children. Doctors don’t know for sure whether we will have an especially bad flu season, or whether getting COVID-19 and flu at the same time will be especially dangerous to children, but many think both are very likely. So, if there is any year that a flu vaccine is especially important, it’s this one.

What viruses does the flu vaccine protect against?
All flu vaccines are made to protect against four flu viruses: an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus and two influenza B viruses. This year, the vaccines have been changed slightly to protect against different strains from last year’s vaccines, which should make the vaccine a better match to the coming flu season.

Where can I find the vaccine?
To find out where flu vaccines are offered in your area, call your doctor, pharmacy or other local health facility; or use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder.

How many doses of flu vaccine will my child need?
Regardless of the type of flu vaccine your child gets, children under 9 getting a flu vaccine for the first time will need two doses of flu vaccine to be fully protected. The two doses should be given at least 28 days apart. Your child’s doctor can tell you if your child needs two doses.

How effective is the flu vaccine in children?
The effectiveness of the flu vaccine in preventing flu can vary, depending on a number of factors, including the age and health of the person being vaccinated and how similar the viruses used to make the vaccine are to the viruses that are circulating each year. But even less-effective vaccines do a very good job at preventing hospitalization or death.

What side effects are associated with the flu vaccine?
In children, side effects can include redness at the injection site, pain at the injection site and fever. Your child cannot get influenza from the flu vaccine.