New survey to support NHS childhood flu vaccination programme reveals common misconceptions about flu

  • in survey of more than 2,000 UK parents, around half think flu is “just like a bad cold” (52%) and almost 2 in 3 (62%) misunderstood how the nasal spray flu vaccine works1
  • TV celebrity and NHS children’s doctor Dr Ranj backs NHS childhood flu vaccination programme in new video, saying parents need the facts about vaccination
  • For the first time this year, the childhood flu vaccine will be offered to eligible children in school year 5 (9 and 10-year olds) in England as NHS childhood flu vaccination programme expands2,3*

A new survey of more than 2,000 parents highlights that while most of those surveyed agree that flu is an infectious virus that can lead to serious medical complications (84%), over half (52%) still consider flu to be “just like a bad cold” 1. The findings highlight common misconceptions that may affect the uptake of childhood flu vaccination, as this year sees the roll-out of the largest-ever NHS childhood flu vaccination programme to date2.

Flu is unlike the common cold; causing a fever, aching muscles, extreme tiredness in children, a stuffy nose, sore throat and a dry cough4,5. In serious cases, flu can lead to complications such as painful ear infection, acute bronchitis and pneumonia5. Flu is miserable for children and the family – it can take up to 7 days to recover4, which can mean time off work and affect childcare arrangements5. The flu virus changes continuously, but vaccination each year can help ‘outsmart’ flu3,6.

“Flu is smart, but vaccination can help teach your child’s immune system to detect the virus and build immunity,” said TV celebrity and NHS children’s doctor, Dr Ranj Singh. “As an NHS children’s doctor, I know how important it is to protect against flu as it can get really serious. That said, parents have concerns and need to know exactly how vaccination can help protect little ones, and help stop the spread of flu through the family and the community.”

72% of survey respondents correctly said that the nasal spray flu vaccine includes weakened flu viruses that help a child build up immunity in similar way to natural infection1. However, the findings also highlighted misconceptions with 62% incorrectly believing that the nasal spray flu vaccine is a combination of chemicals that attacks the flu virus when it is detected by the immune system1.

Parents also highlighted the top three worst aspects of their child being ill with flu in the survey: they revealed feeling helpless when their child was suffering, sleepless nights and worry that the infection would spread to the rest of the family1. If flu was going around school, 59% of parents said they would keep their child away or consider doing so1.

Mummy vlogger Emily Norris, who features in the new information video with Dr Ranj at, said: “As a mum to three young boys, I know how disruptive it is for family life when flu strikes and also how upsetting it is seeing your child feeling ill and miserable. As parents, we need to consider the effect flu can have on your child, friends and family, while understanding how vaccination works, so we can make an informed decision.”

This flu season, the NHS in England will make the nasal spray flu vaccine, or alternative inactivated influenza vaccine if contraindicated or unsuitable, available to more children than ever before in a major effort to reduce infection nationwide2,3. In England, the 2018/2019 childhood flu vaccination programme offers the vaccine to eligible children in school year 5 (9 and 10-year olds) for the first time2*. In England, the vaccine is available to eligible children aged 2-3 at their GP surgery and school-aged children in reception class and years 1 to 52,3*. The nasal spray flu vaccine will be made available free on the NHS for eligible children3.

AstraZeneca, in collaboration with education and school health professionals, provides support to parents by providing information on the national childhood flu vaccination programme via the Share Good Times Not Flucampaign website, available at: Share Good Times Not Flu campaign urges parents to book a vaccine appointment or return school consent forms now ‘before flu finds you’. The campaign highlights that parents will be contacted by their child’s GP or school nurse about getting them vaccinated, but recommends contacting them directly to make an appointment if they have not heard anything by early November.

Additional survey findings1

  • 2,001 people with children aged 2 to 10- years old were surveyed across 12 regions in the UK
  • 1,014 were men (51%) and 987 were women (49%)
  • 52% reported their child had experienced flu
  • 52% believe that flu is good for boosting a child’s immune system
  • 76% believe that flu vaccination is good for boosting a child’s immune system
  • 42% think flu is unlikely to affect their child because it is not very common
  • 89% say they would prevent their child from getting flu, if they could


  1. Atomik Research. AstraZeneca flu survey (sample: 2,001). September – October 2018. Survey commissioned by AstraZeneca.
  2. Chief Medical Officer. The national flu immunisation programme 2018/2019. 26 March 2018.
  3. NHS Vaccinations. Children’s flu vaccine. 24 August 2018.
  4. Patient. Influenza and Flu-like Illness. 25 September 2017.
  5. Public Health England, NHS. Protecting your child against flu. Information for parents. Flu immunisation in England. June 2018.
  6. World Health Organization. Influenza virus infections in humans. February 2014.
  7. Cromer D et al. The burden of influenza in England by age and clinical risk group: a statistical analysis to inform vaccine policy. J Infect. 2014;68(4):363–71. https://doi: 10.1016/j.jinf.2013.11.013

Health Protection Scotland. Seasonal flu vaccination programme for children 2018/19. An update for registered healthcare practitioners. August 2018.

  1. Department of Health. Immunisation Against Infectious Disease. (The Green Book.) Chapter 19: Influenza. London: The Stationery Office. 2017.
  2. Public Health Wales. The National Influenza Immunisation Programme 2018-19. 6 June 2018.
  3. Northern Ireland Childhood Influenza Immunisation Programme. Seasonal influenza vaccination programme 2018/19. 14 June 2018.

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