After having a discussion with my tutor group about public health and health promotion, my tutor decided to canvass some opinion about the seasonal flu jab.
Out of sheer curiosity she wanted to know how many students would be having the inoculation.
I raised my hand and looked around the class expecting to see a large number of the 23 students with their hands in the air. However, to my astonishment, there were only seven - around 30%.
What value for money is the government getting out of the advertising and the publicity surrounding the importance of having the seasonal flu jab? Why was the government spending so much time and resources trying to encourage the elderly and those at risk to have this inoculation, when the group that should be the most receptive and knowledgeable were largely opting out?
The tutor looked dumbfounded as she began to try and find out what the reasons were for people’s decision.
In amongst rumblings of indecision and admissions of from some that they actually hadn’t given it much thought, there were two answers that stuck in my mind.
One student said that she had had the jab one year and more-or-less straight afterward, contracted flu. The common misconception that you are injected with a live virus and that the cure is worse than the disease is more prevalent than I would like admit. My other fellow student said that she knew of somebody who had had the injection and it had led, as a direct result, to her becoming paralysed, and through a fear that the same could happen to her she was not going to risk having the injection.
At the end of our conversation, our tutor asked us what the importance was of having the flu jab.
We concluded that as individuals we may be healthy, fit and able; we may be lucky enough not to succumb to seasonal ailments and afflictions. However, the unfortunate fact is that many people do suffer and as students looking to become nurses, one of the ways in which we can protect our patients is to ensure that we are inoculated against a virus that is potentially fatal.
Finally, what about herd immunity.
We need to have enough of the population inoculated against diseases in order to ensure that the virus cannot have a fertile breeding-ground. Surely the starkest example of when herd immunity fails is the MMR tragedy, where a media propagated scare against the safely of the MMR jab led the concerned parents of middle England to choose not to inoculate their children. As a result, we lost that baseline level of immunity and diseases which we thought a thing of the past began to show up again.
These are my views, but what do you think? Where do you stand? Will you be having the seasonal flu jab?
Adam Roxby is Student Editor of Student Nursing Times. Follow him on Twitter @AdamRoxby