Home » Influenza vaccine for children - side effects and for whom?

Influenza vaccine for children - side effects and for whom?

Influenza vaccine for children

Influenza vaccine protects against influenza. Influenza is a viral disease that sometimes becomes severe even in previously healthy people. Usually you only get a week's suffering with a high fever and cough. But some of our children are cared for in the intensive care unit every year for influenza. The risk of serious illness is higher for chronically ill children or children with impaired immune systems in some way.

You can read more about the flu here. 

Influenza vaccine 

The flu virus mutates all the time. There are different strains that circulate each year, and the vaccine changes to meet this. Vaccine production is based on predictions about which strains will circulate, and succeeds in meeting different strains in different years. The most effective will be the influenza vaccine if an entire population is vaccinated, because you then get herd immunity that protects even those who do not receive individual protection from the vaccine.

Read about herd immunity from vaccines 


In the United States, all people over the age of 6 months are recommended to get the flu vaccine since a few years ago.

You can read the recommendations from the USA here.

In Sweden, children with chronic diseases are recommended to get the influenza vaccine

In Sweden, we have chosen to recommend the vaccine to people in medical at risk groups. On the one hand, all elderly people over the age of 65 are an at risk group, as are the chronically ill. This does not provide as good flu protection as vaccinating the entire population, but it is the choice that is made. The children recommended for influenza vaccination are:

  • Children with chronic heart disease
  • Children with chronic lung disease (for asthma, severe asthma applies)
  • Children with severe immune deficiency (from illness or medication)
  • Children with chronic liver failure
  • Children with chronic renal failure
  • Children with unstable diabetes
  • Children with extreme obesity
  • Children with neuromuscular disorders that affect breathing
  • Children with multiple disabilities (and severely brain-damaged children)

These children should receive vaccination free of charge. Some hospitals are good at keeping track of which children should be vaccinated and remind their parents, others less well. Generally we are not great I would say. The great thing is that you as a parent of a child with any of the above illnesses can go to any health care center or vaccination office with a care agreement and ask for the vaccination for your child. There are clear guidelines from the infectious disease doctor that everyone who has a care contract has the responsibility to vaccinate everyone at risk who asks for it.

Pregnant women should be vaccinated against the flu

There is a greater risk of severe flu in a pregnant woman than in adults in general. Therefore, for pregnant women the influenza vaccination is recommended.

Read more about the flu vaccine for pregnant women here. 

Adults who have the diseases above vaccination (free of charge) is also recommended.

All people over the age of 65 recommended vaccination (free of charge).

family members People who are recommended to receive the vaccination free of charge should also vaccinate others to protect the sick or elderly family members, who may be vaccinated but not given adequate protection. My children will receive vaccines to protect their retired grandmother and grandfather, whom they see several times a week. The fact that we are very likely to reduce winter days this winter is not a direct disadvantage of the decision.

Then narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy as a result of the swine flu vaccination with Pandemrix 2009 was the worst drug disaster since the Thalidomide scandal in my eyes. Pandemrix was developed in a hurry and tested on too few people. It had a very strong adjuvant, which is a substance in vaccine that is used to boost the immune system. Only Pandemrix caused narcolepsy, not other swine flu vaccines. Natural swine flu infection also posed an increased risk like Pandemrix but not as strong a risk increase as Pandemrix.

You can read more about adjuvants and additives in vaccines here. 

There is much to indicate that the strong adjuvant used was the culprit in drama, possibly through interaction with how the virus component itself was designed. The same virus component is found in the seasonal flu vaccine Flurarix. Fluarix has not been shown to produce narcolepsy and in Sweden and the EU (except Finland), the pharmaceutical authorities do not consider the risk of narcolepsy to be increased with Fluarix. However, Finland has acted differently and does not recommend Fluarix to children under 18 years. Other seasonal influenza vaccines contain virus parts produced in other laboratories, in a slightly different way and are also considered safe by Finnish authorities for use in children.

When should my child be vaccinated?

As soon as possible when the vaccine has arrived. Children who have not previously received seasonal influenza vaccine should receive two doses at one month intervals, for those who have previously received one dose.

Read more:

Influensa in children - symptoms and treatment

Influenza vaccine for pregnant women- advantages and disadvantages

Fever in babies and children - what to do and when is the fever too high?

What does vaccine contain? Is there aluminum, formaldehyde or mercury in vaccines?

How does a vaccine work? So the vaccine strengthens the immune system

Flock Immunity

Guide for prospective parents - pregnancy facts and child insights from a scientific background

60 thoughts on “Influensavaccin till barn – biverkningar och till vem?”

  1. This feels like a bad Kafkanovell.
    We recently learned that our daughter is a risk group and should be vaccinated.
    The two nearest health centers refuse to deal with children and do not know where to turn. One points out that BUMM should vaccinate, but apparently it should not do BUMM at all.

    We live just outside Stockholm's inner city and begin to despair. Where should we turn to get the vaccine and not just a lot of redirection?
    Do they have the right to deny children vaccines at health centers?

    1. Hey! Always so sad when the care becomes a bad Kafanovell. There is no decided national vaccination program of risk groups for seasonal influenza, therefore it may happen that the health centers can refuse. Don't know if it says in their agreement with the county council that they have to vaccinate ... I know some BUMMs vaccinate against seasonal flu, others do not. BUMM has no obligation to do so. My recommendation is therefore to either seek out a care center that wants to take care of children (ask around in the acquaintance circle for recommendations), or pay for it yourself and go to a vaccination agency.

      There are recommendations on influenza vaccination of children from the Public Health Authority, here they are: https://www.folkhalsomyndigheten.se/contentassets/af9f68e3cb324aaf818f8e7d53132090/rekommendationer-influensavaccination-riskgrupper.pdf

  2. Hi, now that the flu season starts again and it's talking about H1N1. I vaccinate myself every season, and would like to vaccinate both my children (11 and 6 years, otherwise healthy) to avoid having to get the flu. Would you recommend vaccinating healthy children for preventive purposes?

    1. Hey!
      Yes you are, that is a pretty difficult question. In the US, everyone over 6 months is recommended to vaccinate while Sweden has chosen risk group vaccination. After the Pandemrix disaster, the precaution regarding general vaccination has probably increased in Sweden. Although the seasonal flu vaccine is more well-tested than Pandemrix, Pandemrix reminds us that unexpected side effects can occur. I cannot recommend for or against vaccination of healthy school children. Both to vaccinate and not to vaccinate are reasonable I think. It is up to you as guardians to decide.

      Greetings,
      Cecilia

  3. How do the manufacturers know what kind of influenza strain will be relevant to vaccinate against when they make the flu vaccines? Because they must be produced some time before it breaks out?

    1. Hey! There is a group of researchers, at WHO, I think, who make their best guesses and then produce the industry based on it.

  4. Hello,

    what good information. I have a consequence: I live in GBG. It offers Vaxigrip. I am interested in vaccinating myself against the flu, and possibly the children. What is haunting, of course, is narcolepsy. What do you say about Vaxigrip?

    1. No resemblance to Pandemrix. Good choice! High time to vaccinate, before the flu season has started.

  5. Last year I tried to get the family vaccinated against influenza both at the WC and at two private receptions because I wanted to protect our January baby. None of the clinics could or would vaccinate children. As pregnant, they also did not think that I would be vaccinated because I got pandemrix when it started. None of us were vaccinated last year.

    It feels courageous to gather strength to take a dust with them again this year.

    1. Last year, it was thought that Pandemrix would protect pregnant women. Sad to hear that the clinics do not want to vaccinate children.

  6. Hey!

    You have such a great blog, thanks for that! Can - on the discussions above - inform that Värmland also has Vaxigrip, the same as it has had in recent years.

    I should vaccinate because I am pregnant (have also vaccinated me in recent years due to asthma). Our baby comes in the spring when the flu is probably still running, which is why we also want to vaccinate dad and future big brother (3 years). Gives some feeling that we will need to "explain" at VC why we want to vaccinate two healthy people, including one child. What do you think you should answer if you get the question? Does VC even have the right to ask the question?

    1. VC has the right to ask what they want. And you have the right to answer whatever you want. Answer honestly: that you want to protect your expectant baby (and yourself maybe) from infection from dad and stepson. If they are now unaccustomed to such requests and would feel compelled to point it out then that is not your problem, is it?

    1. If you responded to the vaccine, you probably have some protection. Two of the three influenza strains are the same (A H1N1 and A H3N2) while the influenza B strain is exchanged.

      Which tribes will really circulate in Sweden this season remains to be seen.

  7. You start by writing "During the last flu season I saw several previously healthy teenagers lying weekly in the intensive care unit due to the flu". Was it just teenagers or did it happen to younger children as well? Later in the post, the focus seems to be more on children in general (maybe even more on younger children?)…

    1. Even younger children, especially those with chronic illnesses, can suffer from severe flu. We see a lot of children with chronic illnesses and severe flu. And, of course, we are also hospitalizing some previously healthy toddlers for influenza.

    2. But does it seem that more "perfectly healthy" teenagers are seriously ill than "totally healthy" younger children?

  8. Is Fluarix a vaccine that has been used for many years or is it developed for this season?
    Had you vaccinated your children even if they would not meet anyone from a risk group?

    1. Fluarix has been around since 1998. However, influenza strains are changed for each season, and the influenza strain that Finns are worried about (theoretically to be emphasized) is influenza A H1N1, which has been included in fluarix since the 2010 season.

      If I had vaccinated my children if they had not been with someone from the risk group? Don't know, very possible. I'm REALLY fun for flu, just because I've seen terribly sick children and teens, even previously healthy ones. And even an ordinary, uncomplicated flu with 40 degrees of fever for a week is pretty sad, and for nothing good with it in my eyes.

    2. Thanks for a quick reply and a great blog!

      So then the vaccine has been used for a long time and any side effects should be known. You talk about other flu vaccines that are also considered safe by the Finnish authorities to give to children. What are these vaccines? Do they protect against swine flu / H1N1? Can you ask BVC for a vaccine other than Fluarix?

    3. All this year's seasonal flu vaccine protects against the same virus including A H1N1. Fluenz nasal spray vaccine and wax grip are two that have no resemblance to Pandemrix. As a rule, BVC does not vaccinate against influenza without vaccination receipts and health centers. What you CAN do if you want to avoid Fluarix (and that is what is being procured where you live) is to go to the WC and ask the doctor for a vaccine prescription, buy it at the Pharmacy and go back to the WC or vaccination center and get it injected. It will be much more expensive and more difficult of course. And we are talking about a theoretical risk that our Medicines Agency does not consider relevant. However, Fluenz is only available in ten packs so it will be very difficult to get if it is not purchased.

  9. Hey!

    Unfortunately, it's not that simple in Stockholm. Our 11-month has asthma and has been hospitalized 3 times in 9 months, as well as having to go in for extra inhalations and checks to the limit that our family was breaking. The last time she was admitted was in August and she has never managed a cold without a hospital visit, even though we have the highest dose of flutide, airomir and singulair.

    The lung reception at Södersjukhuset says it is appropriate to vaccinate her and that the doctor recommends it, but that she is not part of the group that SöS lung reception has the resources to vaccinate. He was quite clear that this is only a matter of resources.

    Our health center refuses, citing that they have no guidelines on how to vaccinate. Nor can we pay the vaccine ourselves at the health center.

    Now we will try a private vaccination clinic and see if they are as complicated as not even allowing us to pay the vaccine ourselves. 🙁

    / Johanna

    1. Oh oh oh. That's not how it should work. Feel free to return this to Smittskydd Stockholm so they will know how it (does not) work. And good luck with the private vaccination reception.

    2. Thanks for your reply! After a long and rather choppy history we have solved the problem. The health center has acted in a way they are not entitled to do.

      One thing I learned along the way is that infection control doctors seem to think that pediatricians think it is important that only grade 4 asthma be included. Pediatricians, on the other hand, seem to think that one should be quite generous and vaccinate all children with severe asthma. As a parent, I have never before been confronted with the asthma rating. What really applies there? Is it somehow wise not to vaccinate children with asthma that are just below the most serious level?

      (My daughter will be vaccinated regardless.)

    3. In no way can I understand that vaccinating children with mild asthma would be a disadvantage. Do you think reasonably and comfortably that it resolved in any case.

  10. You mention that Fluarix is used for this year's flu vaccination, but can it vary between counties? Where I live, Vaxigrip is offered for adults and Fluenz for children. Is there any connection with eg Vaxigrip or Fluenz and narcolepsy?

    1. Oh, where is it? I would have chosen the vaccine if I had to decide. There is no relationship at all between these vaccines and what resulted in narcolepsy (Pandemrix). Fluenz is also given as nasal spray. It therefore varies between county councils.

    1. Hard to know for sure. Influenza often causes really high fever and dry cough, but surely it is difficult to be.

  11. Hey! Incredibly good and useful post! "Should" my husband and our 14-month-old son also vaccinate when I'm pregnant? What do you say Cecilia?

    1. If your baby comes during the flu season, it may be a good idea to have the whole family vaccinated.

  12. How well protected are you if you had the flu last year and also had the swine flu in the family (but relatively symptom-free) when it came in 2009? Has the virus changed a lot, electricity. is it ff quite like the virus that ravaged in 2009?

    1. Three viruses are included in this year's vaccine, of which swine is one. Cannot know which virus strain you had carefully counted last year. Vaccine against swine's 2009 no longer provides adequate protection, as seen in pregnant women last year.

    2. I thought you might have better immunity if you had the swine flu in 2009 than if you "just" got vaccinated, but I feel unsure about it ...

    1. Will and should. The official recommendations in Sweden are that children with chronic diseases should be vaccinated. The vaccine is approved and tested from 6 months for those who want to give protection to their healthy child.

  13. Last year, the infectious doctor said that we started vaccinating too early when we started in October. Do you think the flu will come earlier this year or do you think those who will vaccinate twice at 1 month intervals. Think it is difficult to get all vaccinations at my 5 year old. The usual vaccination program + TBE + twinrix and TBC.

    1. I don't know how the infectious doctor thought. Many vaccines can be taken at the same time. TBE can wait until spring for protection for the next season. Hepatitis B vaccine (twinrix is hepatitis A + B) is good to supplement the vaccination program (it is probably the next vaccine in the program).

      Vaccination against TBC is an in-house post and a difficult trade-off, but important if your child will be exposed to a lot of infection (if someone in the family has infectious TBC or if you go to land with mt TBC and live near those who have it).

    2. Hey! I got so worried when I read this answer about the "difficult trade-off" of TBC vaccine. My children are vaccinated because - like many others with an immigrant background - we were invited to do so. Isn't this a safe vaccine? I've been thinking about it for several days now, and had some anxiety, so if you can clarify what you mean I would have been very grateful!

    3. TBC vaccine for children with innate very poor immune system can be very dangerous. Otherwise not, but can cause difficult healing wounds in otherwise healthy. (However, they heal after several weeks). The existing TBC vaccine has effects against severe TBC in young children, poorer efficacy in the elderly and no effect on pulmonary tuberculosis, which is the most common form.

      So it makes sense to vaccinate young children from families who return on vacation to countries where TBC is common, or have contact with people who do. But which countries and which ages are more difficult. Fortunately, infection control doctors help us with lists of the countries in question.

    4. OK, thanks for your quick reply Cecilia! In connection with the vaccination, we received information about the wounds, and we were also told that the protection is far from adequate.

      On 1177 it says that “Vaccine against TB has a limited effect: There is only one vaccine against TB. […] The BCG vaccine has a varying protective effect. Against the most dangerous forms of TB, which mostly young children can get, the vaccine protects well. ”

      Combined with what you write, it does not protect children from the most common forms of TBV, but the most dangerous ones.

      Thanks again for your quick reply, and thanks for a great blog! 🙂

  14. We currently live in the United States and vaccinate both of our children. My daughter has asthma and usually gets the vaccine but my son gets a nasal spray flu vaccine. It has made it much easier for him to take the vaccine.

    Do you know if there is something similar in Sweden? Why not otherwise?

    Thanks for a great blog!

    http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/nasalspray.htm

    1. The nasal spray vaccine is registered in Sweden and more effective than the spray vaccine for children. I called a couple of vaccination agencies today and heard if they had and they didn't. Unfortunately. Don't know if it is habit, price or asset that is lacking, but everyone who wants it: ask for it when you should vaccinate your children. This is how demand is created.

    2. Fluenz has decided to apply to children over the age of 2 who meet the right criteria at our pediatric clinic in Västerbotten County Council. To the others it will be Fluarix and with us it costs SEK 60. Think Fluenz may be a little more expensive, is a live vaccine but should work longer than Fluarixen.

  15. Had clearly vaccinated the children with regard to older relatives if it had not been for the Pandemrix experience. Just as I did not vaccinate myself during pregnancy, no one in the family will vaccinate against seasonal flu anymore. Not so long as no one can guarantee the innocence of the vaccine. As a layman, it feels like the safest decision at the moment unfortunately.

    @ Sture and Bertil's mom: No, so quite right, that Murphy is really not funny sometimes! 🙂

  16. Sture and Bertil's mother

    Last year we managed to get away and vaccinate the whole family. Was so pleased and found that we probably saved a few days of our own illness and some VAB days. Murphy, of course, noticed this triumphant attitude ... The following day, one son broke his leg and was laid off for four weeks ...

  17. Do you know if it is common for you to find out afterwards the risk factors of intensive care patients who you did not know before the time of care?

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