Healthy living

Influenza (flu) vaccine for children

  • Influenza (the flu) is a common, highly contagious virus that affects the respiratory system.
  • Children are at higher risk of serious complications from influenza.
  • The annual influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone from 6 months of age.
  • Children aged 6 months to less than 5 years can receive the influenza vaccine for free.
  • WA primary school-aged children (pre-primary to year 6) can also receive the influenza vaccine for free.
  • Children under 3 years of age may not have developed immunity against influenza as the COVID-19 pandemic and border closures have resulted in low levels of influenza circulating in the community.

Why should children get the influenza vaccine?

Rates of influenza infection and hospitalisation are highest among children.

Influenza is more than a cold – children who are normally fit and healthy can become seriously ill if they catch influenza. Their first exposure to influenza is normally more severe.

Children who become infected with influenza can develop serious illnesses, including convulsions (seizures or fits) and diarrhoea.

The majority of childhood influenza-related hospitalisations and deaths occur among children without underlying medical conditions.

Is the influenza vaccine safe for children?

Yes – the influenza vaccine is safe for children older than 6 months. Infants and children aged 6 months to 5 years are strongly recommended to receive annual influenza vaccine.

This is because infants and children aged under 5 years have a higher risk of hospitalisation and getting very sick after influenza. This is true for all children, not just those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Children will need 2 doses of influenza vaccine when immunised for the first time because they have not been exposed to the influenza virus before. This maximises the immune response to all vaccine strains.

Several studies have evaluated the safety of influenza vaccines in healthy children and have found a good safety profile with no serious adverse reactions. The most common local reactions are pain and redness at the injection site, while the most common systemic reaction is irritability, followed by nausea and headache.

Learn more about vaccination safety.

When should my child get the influenza vaccine?

There has been reduced circulation of influenza disease in WA over the last two years. With increased travel and borders opening, vaccination is the safest and best protection against the disease.

Annual influenza immunisation is recommended, routine, and the vaccine free for infants and children aged 6 months to 5 years. In WA, it is also free for primary school aged children (pre-primary to Year 6) every year.

Children who have not previously had an influenza vaccine are recommended to receive two doses of influenza vaccines at least 4 weeks apart.

To learn more about the recommended routine immunisations and diseases they protect against, visit the WA Childhood Immunisation Schedule.

Where can I get my child get vaccinated?

The influenza vaccine is available from immunisation providers including GPs, community immunisation clinics and Aboriginal Medical Services.

Note: The influenza vaccine is free, however consultation fees may apply. Check with your immunisation provider when booking the appointment.

More information

Where to get help

  • See your doctor
  • Visit healthdirect (external site) or call 1800 022 222
  • Phone the National Immunisation Information Line on 1800 671 811
  • For emergency or life-threatening conditions, visit an emergency department or dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance

Last reviewed: 28-04-2022
Acknowledgements

Public Health


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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