Chief nursing officer for England Dame Christine Beasley has called on nurses to look at the clinical evidence around the swine flu vaccine before making any decision not to have it.
Responding to Nursing Times’ second survey of nurse opinion on the vaccine, which suggests falling confidence in its safety, Dame Christine said: “We’ve gone through exactly the same procedures as we do with seasonal flu vaccine and it’s as safe as a vaccine can be.”
However, she said empathised with nurses over their concerns. “Nothing in life is risk free. I can well understand people being worried, I can well understand people thinking it’s only a mild illness and why should I bother. I do understand all that, I think you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t think that.
“But I also know that as well as being human beings nurse are professionals, and that they make very considered judgements about what they are doing. I’ve got a lot of confidence that they can look at the evidence and really think very carefully about what it means for them, their colleagues and indeed for their patients.
She added: “Even if it’s only a very mild illness, you’re likely to be off three or four days, probably a week.
“So I would encourage nurses not just to take my word for it but to go and look at the evidence around the vaccine so they separate out the myths from the reality.”
To help nurses with this, Dame Christine said the Department of Heath would be sending information packs to trusts in the next couple of weeks, so that occupational health staff were fully prepared to answer nurses’ questions on the vaccine.
Dame Christine also called on directors of nurses to take the lead and act as role models.
“There’s a real role for them in talking to their staff about what the benefits are and to address concerns, and to really make sure their staff get the best protection that’s available to them,” she said.