The chief medical officer has branded nurses who fail to have the seasonal flu jab “selfish”, as a campaign was launched specifically to encourage healthcare staff to get vaccinated.
Only 30% of frontline nurses and midwives were last year vaccinated against seasonal influenza, fewer than any other group of health professionals. Overall 34% of frontline staff were vaccinated (news, page 7, 13 September).
This year, for the first time, a national campaign has been launched to encourage staff to have the vaccine. It is being run by NHS Employers with the support of unions.
Backing the campaign, chief medical officer for England Sally Davies said: “It is selfish of healthcare workers if they don’t make sure they are protected or are unable to go into work because they are sick.”
She admitted she was being “quite heavy” on frontline staff, but said it was necessary because they were the ones who needed to pass on a positive message about vaccination to patients.
Asked why uptake was often so low among healthcare professionals, Department of Health director of immunisation David Salisbury said: “They don’t think it’s important, they even think it can give them flu, or they haven’t got time – there are a whole basket of different reasons. It’s a shame because they have great influence.”
He said the DH had written to trusts urging them to put processes in place to make it easier for staff to get vaccinated, for example by having vaccine teams visit wards.
Professor Salisbury said: “If you have an occupational health clinic once a week, that doesn’t help those on a night shift.”
The national vaccination programme for patients is officially due to start on 3 October. This year’s vaccine protects against the same strains as last year – H1N1, H3N2 and a B strain.