Care home staff in Wales will be eligible for free flu vaccinations from this winter, the Welsh government has announced.
NHS healthcare staff in Wales are already entitled to flu jabs and this will now be extended to their counterparts in adult residential care and nursing homes.
“Vaccination of staff has been shown to be effective in reducing the spread of disease”
There were 42 flu outbreaks in Welsh care homes during the winter, accounting for 60% of the total outbreaks in Wales.
While care home residents have high rates of flu vaccination, the immunisation rate among staff is low, the Welsh government said today.
Until now immunising staff was the duty of employers but, from this winter, care home staff will be able to receive flu vaccinations for free at NHS community pharmacies.
The change would help to “maximise resilience” in health and social care services, said Welsh health and social services secretary Vaughan Gething.
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“Vaccination of staff has been shown to be effective in reducing the spread of disease and patient mortality in care home settings,” he said.
“It can also help to ensure business continuity by reducing flu related staff illness and the need to provide locum cover,” noted Mr Gething.
It also showed the role that social care could play in preventing hospital admissions over the winter period, particularly for older people, he said.
In October 2017, free flu jabs were to be extended to all care home staff in England, as part of package of measures designed to help services cope with winter pressures. Figures on uptake have yet to be revealed.
In addition, Mr Gething announced today that there would be an expansion of the children’s vaccination programme in Wales.
Next winter, it will be extended by two school years to include school years 5 and 6, meaning that all primary school aged children from reception class to year 6 will be offered the flu vaccine.
“It is really important that people more at risk of developing complications from flu, such as pregnant women, those aged 65 and over, and people with long term health conditions, receive the vaccine,” said Mr Gething.
During the 2017-18 flu season, over 58,000 more people in at risk groups were vaccinated than in the previous season, the Welsh government said.