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Nurses feel pressured over swine flu vaccine

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Half of all nurses offered the swine flu vaccine have been immunised, a Nursing Times survey indicates.

The figures are the first to be published that give an indication of immunisation take-up.

But a third of nurses say they have faced “undue pressure” from managers to be immunised.

The results were part of an online survey of more than 1,000 visitors to the Nursing Times website.

The take-up of the vaccine - by 52 per cent of acute sector and community-based nurses - is higher than was expected before the injection was available.

But 48 per cent have not had the vaccine, even though they have been offered it. This is almost identical to the proportion of nurses who said they would not get vaccinated in Nursing Times’ last swine flu survey in October.

Of those who have not had the vaccine, safety concerns were the most common reason, followed by worries about side effects, and a significant minority who had been unavailable when it was being administered or did not feel it was necessary.

But others said refusing the vaccine was unfair on patients and colleagues, who would have to work harder if staff were struck down by swine flu.

Both Unison and the Royal College of Nursing described the take up as disappointing.

This week’s survey also found a third of nurses felt they had been put under “undue pressure” by managers to be immunised.

One respondent said: “Management are emotionally blackmailing [us] by saying ‘it’s a duty of care, what if you pass it on to your patients or family?’”

Another said: “Managers are pressuring staff to be vaccinated, using forceful and emotive language in invitations for vaccine…But they are less keen to discuss concerns.”

Other nurses said they did not think they should have to tell managers whether or not they had been immunised, saying they should be entitled to the same degree of confidentiality regarding their health as patients.

Ms Jennings responded: “It’s totally unacceptable to bully people into having the vaccine.

“A much more sensible approach is for people to be talked through the information and to make it as easy as possible for them to get the vaccine.”

Royal College of Nursing head of nursing Steve Jamieson said he was “taken aback” that a so many nurses reported feeling pressurised. “This vaccine isn’t compulsory so no-one can make you have it.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the vaccine had been carefully assessed and licensed by European regulators and was optional.

Literature addressing safety concerns had been “cascaded” throughout the NHS workforce, she said.

“We welcome findings that half of the nursing workforce have had the vaccine so far – this is the best way to protect themselves, their patients, and their families.

“Frontline nurses are essential in a pandemic, so we strongly encourage them to take up the vaccine when offered.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I have to disagree with some of the comments about staff being forced to have the swine flu vaccine. I have administered these vaccines for the hospital I work for, and although I have encouraged staff and patients to have the vaccination I have fully informed them and advised them to read the literature should they wish to on DoH and other websites. People have choices and can give their choice either way so I feel it is unfair to say people are forced to have them!.

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