Senior clinicians have urged frontline colleagues to get the annual flu jab as soon as possible, as the first vaccine deliveries start to reach local employers this week.
NHS organisations across England will be starting to run drop-in clinics and promotional activity with the aim of ensuring that every single eligible member of staff is able to get it this year. There is also an expanded offer this year for frontline social care workers who are all eligible to get a free flu vaccination from a GP or pharmacy. Pharmacists are able to deliver the vaccination to residential care staff where they work to make it easier than ever for them to get their jab.
This comes alongside an expanded flu vaccination programme for both the public and frontline health and social care workers, with a record 30 million people eligible for a free vaccine this year.
‘Every year we urge our colleagues to protect themselves, their families and their patients by taking up the free flu jab, and every year more and more do – but this year’s call is the most vital we have ever made,’ said Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England.
‘The flu has a serious impact on the health of thousands of people every winter, and with the added risk of COVID-19 this year the NHS needs as many of its staff as possible to be fighting fit over the coming months. And even more importantly, just as we are making every effort to stop the spread of coronavirus in our hospitals, so we must also do the same for flu. Getting a vaccine is the single most effective way every member of our staff can contribute to this.’
Staff who get flu require time off work, putting pressure on services at what can be the busiest time of the year any year. Research suggests that a 10% increase in NHS staff vaccination reduces healthcare worker sickness absence by about 10%. However, some infections only result in mild or unnoticeable symptoms – meaning staff can then unknowingly pass the virus to vulnerable people they come into contact with.
‘If you’re a frontline health or care professional, getting your flu jab is the most effective way to protect yourself and those you care for from what can be a serious and even fatal illness,’ said Professor Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England.
‘This year, it is more important than ever to get your flu jab with COVID-19 still in circulation. Flu can require hospitalisation, which would add pressure on the NHS and social care when they may also be dealing with cases of COVID-19. Getting your flu jab is easy and takes just a few minutes, but it could save someone’s life.’