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Nurse confidence in swine flu vaccine falling

Nurses’ confidence in the safety of swine flu vaccination has fallen over the last two months, Nursing Times’ latest survey suggests.

With the first doses of vaccine expected to arrive at trusts in the next week or two, just under half of frontline nurses say they do not intend to have the jab, according to a snapshot survey of nearly 1,700 readers.

The results suggest fewer nurses are likely to get vaccinated now than in August, when Nursing Times asked readers the same questions about immunisation against swine flu.

In August, 31 per cent of respondents said they would not get vaccinated while 35 per cent said they would. However, in the latest online survey, carried out last week, the percentage of nurses saying they will not get vaccinated has increased to 47 per cent. Those saying they will has fallen to 23 per cent   

The main reason nurses cited for not having the vaccine was concern over its safety - the percentage of nurses saying this is the main reason they do not intend to get immunised has increased from 60 per cent in August to 78 per cent in now.

A sizeable minority - 25 per cent - said they do not consider the risks to their health to be great enough. The comments suggest many nurses hold both views - believing that the condition is not serious enough to warrant trying a relatively new vaccine.

Both vaccines ordered by the Department of Health have now been licensed, having undergone trials. But many nurses responding to the survey raised concerns that the approval process had been rushed.

One respondent said: “I don’t believe that it has been tested properly and there is not enough information regarding side effects. It could come back and haunt us in years to come.”

“I am not confident that it has been sufficiently tested. I would rather take the risk of getting the flu,” another said.

Other common reasons cited by nurses for remaining unvaccinated were that the infection was mild enough for them not to bother, or that they had previously experienced flu-like illness after receiving the seasonal flu vaccine. 

One respondent said: “I have worked on a swine flu isolation ward and have not become ill. I feel good barrier nursing with the correct masks has allowed me to build up my own resistance.”

Both the RCN and Unison have publically encouraged NHS staff to get vaccinated. Last month Unison head of nursing Gail Adam said: “We are strongly recommending that all health workers have the swine flu vaccination.”

Readers' comments (5)

  • The respondent who felt they had built up resistance to swine flu has not considered the following. We are all exposed to different pathogenic micro-organisms on a daily basis, but we do no pick up all of the bacterial and viral infections 'going about'. The reason is not always because of a build up of resistance, but because at that particular time your immune system is healthy. Evidence shows that we generally 'pick up' these bugs when we are tired and run down. So swine flu may still occur in people previously exposed to the virus but not been affected.
    Also - I thought barrier nursing protected us from coming into contact with the condition, whilst the writer above suggests that we are exposed to it, but build up immunity?
    What do others think?

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  • BBV -we have universal protection - the gloves and apron on the asssumption that everybody has one (obviously infection control plays a part!) - so why not add in masks - on the assumption everybody poses a threat - potential to infect - i would much rather wear a mask and feel better protected - and more in control - than risk 'trialling' this new vaccine - what are the long and short time side effects?

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  • Since masks may well block the particles from spreading, it would be much more efficient (and probably effective) to mask the patient rather than all the workers.

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  • Listening to qualified nurses discussing their role in distributing Tamiflu over the last few months it transpires that a vast number of the individuals that have been "diagnosed" as having swine flu by the NHS flu line (where most of the people diagnosing had only 3 - 5 hours training!) did not even have a temperature I am not convinced that the numbers of people being reported as having having swine flu, have actually had it. WHO advised not to administer Tamiflu to children due to the large number of side effects (often worse than the flu itself!) yet the number of children locally that have been prescribed this which resulting in their having far worse symptons just beggars belief! Are we going to go the way of the US where your job is at risk if you don't comply with vaccination? I for one will take up other employment than have my rights over what I put into my own body abused.

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  • Does anyone know where we can find any currents stats on those who have already had the Tamiflu vaccine and consequent side effects or problems encountered. Apparently thousands have already had the vaccine so surely there should be some stats available to us on it's efficacy and safety, or not! We are being told that it is safe but no'one is providing us with the evidence! I will only trust hard facts when I have seen them and not what I am being told!
    G Amison, Birmingham

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