Wales Online news report, by Mark Smith, 10 Oct 2016: Patients are being put at risk by healthcare staff who haven’t had the flu jab
A large number of vulnerable people have failed to have their flu jab
Fewer than half of healthcare staff and carers were vaccinated against the flu last year which put their patients at risk, it has been revealed.
Latest figures show that 47.2% of healthcare workers, who have direct contact with patients, had the all-important jab during the autumn and winter period in 2015/2016.
It was a similar story for carers who only had a 49.1% uptake of the vaccination.
Thousands of people in so-called “at risk” groups also failed to get protected against the potentially fatal disease.
Less than half of people with chronic heart disease (46.7%), chronic respiratory disease (46.4%) and chronic liver disease (40.6%) in Wales were vaccinated last year.
Last year’s uptake of the flu vaccine
- 65 and over: 66.6%
- At risk groups in general: 46.9%
- Chronic heart disease: 46.7%
- Chronic respiratory disease: 46.4%
- Chronic kidney disease: 51.2%
- Diabetes: 62.3%
- Immunosuppression due to disease or treatment: 55.9%
- Chronic liver disease: 40.6%
- Chronic neurological conditions (inc stroke and TIA): 44.6%
- Pregnant women: 47.1%
- Carers: 49.1%
- Healthstaff with direct patient contact: 47.2%
The figures were released ahead of the annual ‘Beat Flu’ campaign which encourages members of the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible – particularly those in “at risk” groups.
This includes everyone aged 65 and over, people with certain chronic long-term health conditions and pregnant women.
Carers, volunteers providing planned emergency first aid and Community First Responders are also entitled to the vaccine, which is delivered as a small injection in the arm.
Frontline health and social care workers should have the vaccine as part of their occupational health care to protect themselves and those in their care.
Vaccine extended for children
The vaccine programme will be extended this year for children which means those between two and seven years old will be eligible.
The vaccine for children is a simple nasal spray, with children aged two and three receiving it at their GP practice.
While those in reception class and school years 1, 2 and 3 will receive the nasal spray at school.
Minister for Social Services and Public Health, Rebecca Evans, who is launching the Beat Flu campaign today, said it’s vital that those most at risk of flu and its complications have the free vaccine.
The Minister said: “Flu can be a life-threatening illness for people who are at risk because of their age, because they have an underlying health problem or because they are pregnant. Sadly, it kills people in Wales every year.
“People can also pledge to Beat Flu by reminding eligible relatives and friends to get their flu vaccine this autumn.
“We run this programme every year to make sure people don’t fall seriously ill with flu, especially as it can be prevented so quickly and simply – so make sure you get protected early.”
Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that affects the lungs and airways. Symptoms generally come on suddenly and can include:
fever chills headache cough body aches fatigue
The flu virus is spread via droplets which are sprayed into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Direct contact with contaminated hands or surfaces can also spread infection.
It can spread rapidly, especially in closed communities such as hospitals, residential homes and schools.
Health and social care workers are also encouraged to get a flu vaccine as it is the best way to prevent spreading disease, and their employers should support them in this
Each year the flu vaccine is changed to match circulating strains of the flu virus, this is to give best protection. Most NHS flu vaccines are given in GP surgeries, but it is also available in some community pharmacies across Wales.
The campaign is led by Public Health Wales and will be active from now until December.
‘The viruses change regularly’
Dr Richard Roberts, head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme in Public Health Wales, said: “Each year flu viruses circulate causing many people to be ill.
“The viruses change regularly and vaccine protection fades over time, so if you are in a risk group and had the vaccine last year you should get vaccinated again this year to protect you from flu this winter.
“Getting vaccinated against flu every year is the single best way to protect against catching or spreading flu.
“Flu can be really serious even with treatment, but getting vaccinated offers good protection, so make sure you beat flu before it beats you.”