Public Health England (PHE) is urging all health and social care staff to receive their free flu vaccination to protect the most vulnerable people in the South West.
Frontline staff are at higher risk of catching and of also passing on flu due to their contact with patients and those they care for. To help increase uptake in the social care sector, for the first-time, as well as social care staff being able to get a vaccine at a pharmacy or via a GP, pharmacists will be able to vaccinate both residents and care home staff at the same time.
This approach means all frontline social care workers will be able to get a flu vaccine to protect themselves and the people they care for. This is important as staff who get flu require time off work, putting pressure on services at what can be the busiest time of the year.
In some cases, infections only result in mild or unnoticeable symptoms – meaning staff then unknowingly pass the virus to vulnerable people that they come into contact with.
Flu is very different to a normal cold and can confine the fittest of people to bed. We know that for older people or those with long-term health conditions, the effects of flu can be much more serious, and in some cases even fatal.
Dr Julie Yates, Lead Consultant for Screening and Immunisation at Public Health England and NHSEI South West said:
“Flu can be extremely serious and can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability or even death. There is evidence that getting flu and COVID-19 at the same time can also increase the risk of becoming very seriously ill or dying. That’s why it’s more important than ever this year that staff and care home residents get vaccinated, to help reduce transmission of flu and protect against the double threat of flu and COVID-19.”
Director of Primary Care and Public Health Commissioning in the South West, Ian Biggs said: “This is anything but a usual year and we all want to protect ourselves, staff and those close to us from the flu. Every year it hospitalises and kills thousands.
“We are fortunate to have access to the best protection available, the flu jab. It’s essential that all health and social care workers in South West get their flu jab so they’re fighting fit to care for others ahead of what will no doubt be a busy winter.
“As well as making every effort to stop the spread of coronavirus in our hospitals and communities, we must do the same for flu.”
Jacqueline Moss, Manager at Bassett House Care Home in Wiltshire said:
“Our residents are vulnerable, and we know if they catch flu, the consequences could be much more severe than in a healthy adult. This is really distressing for us, the resident and their family, so we are encouraging all residents and staff to protect themselves and others by taking up the offer of a free flu vaccine this year.”
This year, it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated as research suggests that people infected with both flu and COVID-19 between January and April were more at risk of severe illness and death.
For more information on the vaccine, visit the flu pages on the NHS website at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-influenza-vaccine/
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