Flu (influenza) is a serious illness that can make your child extremely unwell. It can also be extremely serious in pregnant women and the elderly.

The flu vaccine (nasal or injection; according to eligibility) is free on the NHS for:

  • from 6 months until 2 years with certain long-term health conditions
  • children aged 2 or 3 years
  • all primary school children (reception to year 6)
  • all year 7 to year 11 children in secondary school
  • children aged 2 to 17 years with long-term health conditions

You can have the NHS flu vaccine at:

  • your GP surgery
  • your school

School aged children who miss the vaccination session at school will have other opportunities to get vaccinated.  Please contact your GP surgery for more information. 

Children with certain long-term health conditions, such as diabetes, heart problems, asthma, learning disability, neurological conditions etc, are at higher risk of more severe illness and complications from flu, click here for more information.

All children between 2 and 11 years (year 6) of age should receive the children's flu vaccine. This is not only to stop them getting unwell with flu, but also to stop them spreading flu to other members of your family. 

There are other groups of children with long-term health conditions that should have the flu vaccine every year. This includes children with weakened immune systems (including those on steroids or with problems with their spleen), chronic heart or lung problems, diabetes, asthma, chronic kidney or liver disease. It is especially important that these children are vaccinated because they have the greatest risk of becoming very unwell if they get flu. Children aged from 6 months to 2 years who are at risk from complications of flu should be given the inactivated (injected) flu vaccine rather than the intranasal vaccine.


Child's age Where to have the flu vaccine

From 6 months until 2 years
(with certain long-term health conditions)

GP surgery

From 2 years until child
starts primary school

GP surgery

All children at primary school (Reception to Year 6)


Secondary school aged children in eligible groups (Year 7 to Year 11)


Children in eligible school groups
(with certain long-term health conditions)

School or GP surgery

Children who are home-schooled or not in mainstream education
(same ages as those offered in eligible groups at schools)

Community clinic

'Flu isn't serious, so my child doesn't need a flu vaccine' and 'My children never get ill, so they don't need the vaccine'

It is tempting to think that flu is no worse than a bad cold, but in fact it is a serious disease which can infect anyone and can cause serious complications. For people at risk of complications e.g. grandparents or other vulnerable household members, flu can lead to hospitalisation or even death. Flu leads to hundreds of thousands of GP visits and tens of thousands of hospital stays a year.

'Last year my children had the flu vaccine but they got ill anyway, so it doesn't work'

No vaccine is 100% effective, including the flu vaccine. However, the vaccine usually prevents about half of all flu cases. For people who get flu after being vaccinated, the disease is often less severe than it would have been. It is important to remember that the flu vaccine only protects against flu, but there are other illnesses which have flu-like symptoms which you can still catch after getting the flu vaccine. It takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to take effect, so you could still catch flu if you are exposed to the virus during this time. Getting vaccinated as early as possible in the season can help to prevent this.

Use this video to explain to your child why they are having the flu vaccine.


Flu is more severe in pregnant women than in non-pregnant women. It has the ability to cause:

Worsening of pre-existing health conditions, such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, sepsis (blood poisoning), hospitalisation, death (rarely).

Your risk of is higher if you also have one or more other known risk factors such as asthma or diabetes.

For more information about flu vaccination in pregnancy, click here.