Frequently Asked Questions

Many parents have questions about the flu and the childhood immunisation programme. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions to support you to make an informed decision on vaccination for you and your family.

What are the differences between flu, coronavirus (COVID-19) and the common cold?



Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Common cold

How long do symptoms take to appear?

Appears quickly within a few hours1

Up to 14 days2

Appears gradually7

What are the symptoms?

Cold and flu symptoms are similar, but flu affects more than just your nose and throat1

Symptoms can include:

a sudden fever

an aching body

feeling tired or exhausted

a dry cough

a sore throat

a headache

difficulty sleeping

loss of appetite

diarrhoea or tummy pain

feeling sick and being sick1

The main symptoms of coronavirus are:3

High temperature – feeing hot to touch on your chest or back

New, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more for an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)

Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

Cold and flu symptoms are similar, but a cold affects mainly your nose and throat7

Symptoms can include:

a blocked or runny nose

a sore throat


muscle aches



a raised temperature

pressure in your ears and face

loss of taste and smell7

How severe can the symptoms be?

Can make you feel exhausted and too unwell to carry on as normal1

Usually mild, but some people can become very unwell4

Can make you feel unwell, but you're OK to carry on as normal1

Does the flu vaccination help to protect against it?





Does the flu vaccine protect against the coronavirus (COVID-19)?

No - the flu vaccine helps to protect your child against the flu, but does not protect against COVID-19.5,6

Why is it important to vaccinate your children against flu?

Vaccinating your child will help to protect them from flu.1 By making the flu virus less able to spread, vaccinating your child can also help to protect others in your family who could be at greater risk from flu, such as grandparents or those with long-term health conditions.8

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Will the vaccine give my child the flu?

No, the vaccine cannot cause flu because the viruses used in the vaccine have been weakened to prevent this from happening.8

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Does the nasal vaccine contain gelatine derived from pigs (porcine gelatine)?

Yes. The nasal vaccine contains highly purified gelatine from pigs, which is used in many essential medicines. The gelatine helps to keep the vaccine stable.8

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How does the vaccine work? My child is afraid of needles.

Most children can receive the vaccination as a nasal spray – this is quick and painless.8 The vaccine is given as a single spray squirted up each nostril.6,8,9,10

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How can I make sure that my child is vaccinated? Can you explain the step-by-step process?

The NHS Seasonal Flu Immunisation Programme offers a free nasal spray flu vaccine to all eligible children in England aged 2 and 3 years old, school children in Reception to Year 7, and those clinically at risk aged 2-17 years.11

There may be some variance across the UK within the other devolved nations; please check with your GP, nurse or pharmacist.

For more information about when and how your child will be vaccinated against the flu, please get in touch with your GP, practice nurse or your child’s school.

If you choose to vaccinate your child, vaccinations may take place between September and November each year to ensure children are protected before the flu season begins.8

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1. NHS Website. Flu. August 2019. Available at:
2. Public Health England. Guidance for contacts of people with confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection who do not live with the person. July 2020. Available at:
3. NHS Website. Check if you or your child have coronavirus symptoms. August 2020. Available at:
4. World Health Organization. Coronavirus. Available at: [Last accessed August 2020]
5. Oxford Vaccine Group. Coronavirus COVID-19. March 2020. Available at:
6. Fluenz Tetra nasal spray suspension Influenza vaccine (live attenuated, nasal). Patient Information Leaflet. Available at: (Accessed July 2020)
7. NHS Website. Common Cold. December 2017. Available at:
8. Public Health England: Protecting your child against flu. Information for parents. Flu immunisation in England. July 2020. Available at:
9. Department of Health and Social Care. Summary of JCVI consideration of the number of doses of influenza vaccine for influenza vaccine-naïve children. March 2013. Available at:
10. Public Health England. Green Book. Chapter 19. Influenza. April 2019. Available at:
11. Whitty C, Doyle Y, & Powis S. The national flu immunisation programme 2020-21 - update. 5 August 2020. Available at:


If you or your child experience any side effects after taking an AstraZeneca medicine, including the childhood flu vaccine, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse. This includes any possible side effects not listed in the package leaflet. You can also report side effects directly via the Yellow Card Scheme at By reporting side effects, you can help provide more information on the safety of this medicine.

Side effects can also be reported to AstraZeneca by visiting

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