Nurses are being urged by infection experts to have the flu jab to prevent serious risk to their patients and colleagues.
Figures from the Infection Prevention Society (IPS) show that over half of frontline healthcare workers in England haven’t been vaccinated against flu so far this year.
Whilst flu vaccination uptake amongst frontline health workers in England has increased to 46% in October 2017 compared with 40% in the same period the previous year, over half (54%) were left unvaccinated.
During 2015/16 there were 28,189 deaths attributed to flu.
The IPS reports that in a typical flu season about a quarter of healthcare staff will contract flu and half of these will not have major symptoms but they can still spread infections.
A key reason that uptake of flu immunisation by NHS staff has been relatively low is concern about how effective it is, the IPS states. However, recent research has shown that improving NHS flu vaccination programmes can reduce staff sickness, with a 10% increase in the vaccination associated with a 10% fall in sickness absence.
Dr Neil Wigglesworth, President of the IPS, said: ‘It’s worrying that as we head into winter over half of healthcare workers, including frontline nurses, are not vaccinated against the threat of flu, which can have devastating effects on patient and staff safety, as well causing havoc to vital NHS services through staff sickness.
‘Annual immunisation remains the best way to protect people and we are urging all healthcare staff to get a flu jab to ensure the safety of their patients and colleagues. With the added threat of the Australian flu strain reaching Europe, front line nurses and their patients and colleagues are even more vulnerable. Infection prevention through vaccination is critical to keep our workforce fighting fit.’