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Regulator adds to winter warning for nurses to ‘get flu jab’

  • 1 Comment

The Nursing and Midwifery Council has added its voice to calls for all registered nurses and midwives to get their flu jab ahead of the coming winter period, which is predicted to be tougher than normal.

NMC chief executive and registrar, Jackie Smith, said: “I strongly encourage all nurses and midwives across the UK to get their flu jab.

“I strongly encourage all nurses and midwives across the UK to get their flu jab”

Jackie Smith

She said: “Influenza is a dangerous, highly contagious illness and we have already heard warnings that the flu season this year could be worse than in previous years.

“During the busy winter period, flu outbreaks become a greater threat to nurses, midwives and their patients,” said Ms Smith in a statement released today.

She added: “Making sure they have received their flu jab is a simple and effective thing that all nurses and midwives can do to help ensure that they, their patients and colleagues stay flu free this year.”

The extra encouragement from the regulator follows a package of “contingency actions” that were announced last month to try and boost the uptake of flu vaccinations among health and care staff.

In October, it was revealed that free flu jabs were being extended to all care home staff in England, as part of measures designed to help frontline services cope with pressures this winter.

The Department of Health and national NHS bodies also said trusts had been told to “ramp up” efforts to ensure nurses, doctors and other staff received the free flu jab.

Although last year saw record take up of influenza vaccination, they noted that more than one in three NHS staff still failed to have the jab, with just one in five being vaccinated in some trusts.

This year, trusts are being told to make the vaccine readily available to staff without the need to disrupt their work, but also to record why anyone who decides to opt out chose to do so.

Nt editorial jackie smith

Nt editorial jackie smith

Jackie Smith

In addition, nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers were due to receive letters reminding them of their “professional duty” to protect patients by being immunised against influenza.

The letters were signed by senior nurse leaders including chief nursing officer for England Professor Jane Cummings and Dr Ruth May, NHS Improvement’s executive director of nursing.

Meanwhile, infection control nurses have warned that vaccinating as many staff as possible against influenza early in the season will be important if the NHS is to cope with the predicted bad winter.

The Infection Prevention Society was responding to a warning made by the head of NHS England in September, based on the experiences of countries in the southern hemisphere.

NHS England’s chief executive said the signs from Australia and New Zealand were a “heavy flu season”, which saw hospitals in those countries “struggling to cope”.

The NHS Employers organisation, which is part of the NHS Confederation, runs the annual “flu fighter” campaign to encourage vaccine uptake among NHS staff, on behalf of the government.

It said 63.2% of frontline staff across all trusts with direct patient contact received the seasonal vaccine in England during the 2016-17 flu season, up from 50.6% in the 2015-16 season.

It particularly noted that this year was the first time its campaign would focus on both health and social care staff.

This is being highlighted as part of its current week-long “jabathon”, from 6-10 November, which aims to encourage conversations on the flu vaccination to inspire more staff to get their jabs.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “Prevention is the best line of defence against a flu epidemic and stemming the tide of infections through vaccination is imperative.”

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • There are over 200 known viruses that cause influenza and influenza like illness (ILI). There is growing evidence - and this builds on historical evidence - that the seasonal vaccine is based on very shaky ground...

    As far as can be determined from studies, at best flu vaccines appear to only be effective against influenza A and B. A and B represent about 10% of all circulating viruses and without lab testing we have no way of knowing which strain has caused an illness in any particular patient.

    The virus strains contained in the vaccine offered seasonally are those that are predicted by the WHO to circulate in the following epidemic season and generally contains two type A and one B strain.

    Recent analysis of studies over the last few years has resulted in data that shows the preventive effect of inactivated influenza vaccine on "healthy" adults is small...

    The summary of the data shows you would need to immunize at least 40 people to avoid one ILI case and 71 people would need vaccination to prevent one case of influenza.

    The data also shows vaccination shows no appreciable effect on working days lost or hospitalisation.

    The data also shows vaccination of healthcare workers who care for those aged 60 or over who are in residential or nursing care may have little or no effect.

    There is some evidence to show vaccination programmes probably have a small effect on lower respiratory tract infection, but there is still little evidence to show they have an effect on admission to hospital.

    It is unclear what effect vaccination programmes have on death due to lower respiratory tract illness or all cause deaths (due to low quality evidence).

    Despite the paucity of supporting data in favour of immunization for flu, a vaccination policy is argued to still be reasonable based on a plethora of observational studies that have consistently proven benefit... However, the observational studies that are provided by immunization proponents are frequently flawed...

    "In many studies, relevant clinical outcomes are ignored in favor of immunogenicity (ie, the ability to elicit an antibody response). "Influenza-like illness" (ie, cold symptoms) is frequently measured instead of serious outcomes, such as pneumonia or death. When these more serious outcomes are examined, there is often a failure to control for healthy user bias—the propensity for healthier people to do such things as receive annual check-ups, eat healthier foods, and get the flu shot. So, although it's true that people who get flu shots live longer, it may have nothing to do with actually getting the flu shot." (Biondi & Aligne, 2015).

    Now please don't take me for an anti-vaxer... I am all for vaccination where the evidence supports this... but the data on flu vaccination is in distinct contrast to other routine vaccinations, such as polio and MMR, where introduction of the vaccine led to obvious decline of the disease in multiple high quality studies.

    It is clear that evidence for employer and patient benefit of immunization for seasonal flu is not straightforward so the statement "Making sure they have received their flu jab is a simple and effective thing that all nurses and midwives can do to help ensure that they, their patients and colleagues stay flu free this year" is misleading based on the available evidence at best...

    Ref

    Thomas R, Jefferson T, Lasserson T, 2016. Influenza vaccination for healthcare workers who care for people aged 60 or older living in long-term care institutions. Cochrane.

    Biondi E, Aligne A, 2015. Flu Vaccine for All: A Critical Look at the Evidence.

    Demicheli V, Jefferson T, Al-Ansary L, Ferronie E, Rivettia A & Di Pietrantonj C, 2014. Vaccines to prevent influenza in healthy adults. Cochrane.

    Bridges C, Thompson W, Meltzer M, Reeve G, Talamonti W, Cox N, Lilac H, Hall H, Klimov A, & Fukuda K, 2000. Effectiveness and Cost-Benefit of Influenza Vaccination of Healthy Working Adults
    A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of the American Medical Association; 284(13).

    Schoenbaum S, Mostow S, Dowdle W, Coleman M & Kaye H, 1969. Studies with inactivated influenza vaccines purified by zonal centrifugation, 2 Efficacy. Bulletin World Health Organisation.

    Langmuir A, Henderson D & Stefling R, 1964. The epidemiological basis for the control of influenza. American Journal of Public Health; 54. 563-571

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