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Flu vaccine should be offered at 'every opportunity,' says NICE

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Influenza vaccination should be offered by healthcare professionals at “every opportunity” during flu season to help stop the virus from spreading, draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has said.

The new guideline, published this month, recommends those who are eligible for the free vaccination – including older people, very young children, pregnant women and those with underlying long-term conditions – are made aware of the benefits by staff every time they come into contact with them.

”People who are most at risk of getting the flu, and being admitted to hospital as a result, need to be made aware that they can get vaccinated”

Professor Gillian Leng

This applies to professionals working in both primary and secondary care and could be during a GP appointment, when a person is picking up prescriptions or during a hospital stay or home visit, said NICE.

In addition, healthcare managers should ensure staff are trained to understand who is eligible, how the virus is transmitted, the particular benefits of vaccination for high risk groups, and the evidence supporting its safety and effectiveness.

It is estimated that around 8,000 people die in an average year from flu, a figure that increases when new strains cause pandemics, said NICE.

In the most recent flu season – from October 2016 to March 2017- 953 people were admitted to intensive care units with confirmed cases of the flu and of those, 107 people died.

NICE’s draft guideline recommends workers in direct contact with groups of patients eligible for the free vaccination – such as practice nurses, health visitors and midwives – should receive flu training as part of their continuing professional development.

“Health professionals can help by using every opportunity to offer the most vulnerable people the flu vaccination each and every year”

Professor Gillian Leng

They should also be able to provide tailored information on the risks and benefits and be able to offer and administer the vaccination, states the guideline.

Employers in the health and social care sectors should also offer staff the flu vaccination every year, it adds.

“The single best way to protect against the flu, and to stop it spreading, is to get the vaccination,” said Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE.

“People who are most at risk of getting the flu, and being admitted to hospital as a result, need to be made aware that they can get vaccinated at no cost,” she added.

“Health and social care professionals can help by using every opportunity to offer the most vulnerable people the flu vaccination each and every year. They also need to make sure they have the flu jab themselves,” said Professor Leng.

Dr Richard Pebody, acting head of respiratory at Public Health England, said: “Although flu vaccine uptake increased for almost every eligible group in the 2016/17 flu season, it is crucial that we continue to build on this success.”

NICE’s consultation on the draft guideline is open until 4 August.

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