HSE launches annual flu vaccine campaign for healthcare workers as uptake rates at highest levels ever

by admin on 03/10/2017

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The HSE yesterday, Monday 2nd October 2017 urged all healthcare workers to get the flu vaccine as figures show that seasonal flu vaccine uptake rates amongst staff working in the health services last year were at the highest levels ever.

Flu is responsible for between 200 and 500 deaths each year in Ireland and in a severe season it can cause up to 1,000 deaths, according to HSE Assistant National Director for Health Protection, Dr. Kevin Kelleher.

“The best way to prevent flu is to get the flu vaccine.  Flu vaccine is a safe, effective a way to help prevent flu infection, avoid hospitalisation and flu related deaths and illnesses.  The flu vaccine is the only defence against the flu, yet many healthcare workers fail to get vaccinated and put themselves and patients at risk of serious illness.  Getting protected from flu with the flu vaccine is an important duty for any healthcare worker, because for them, or for their patients, it is a lifesaver.  Many of the people in our care are vulnerable to the life-threatening complications of flu – like people with long-term illnesses and conditions, pregnant women, and anyone aged 65 and over.  The simple fact is that if we cannot get the flu, we cannot pass it on to them – it’s their best shot,” he said.

Dr. Anna Clarke, HSE National Immunisation Office, Flu Vaccine Lead said: “ Overall uptake rates for flu vaccine amongst healthcare workers working in the acute hospital sector reached 31.9% during last year’s flu season, up from 22.6% during the 2015/2016 season. Uptake among healthcare workers in long term care institutions also increased to 28.1% up from 24.4% in the 2015/2016 season.

The increase is very welcome but we need to make sure that this positive development continues and that every healthcare worker considers getting vaccinated this year.  Basically, if you can’t get the flu, then you can’t spread the flu so it is important that those working in frontline healthcare protect themselves from getting the flu to prevent spreading the flu to vulnerable patients.”  

Flu vaccine is recommended for all those working in the health care settings including:

  • Medical, nursing and allied health professionals
  • Medical, nursing and allied health students
  • Dental personnel
  • Hospital porters and household staff
  • Ambulance personnel
  • Carers and home helps
  • All GP practice staff
  • Agency staff who fall into the above categories

Older and at risk patients may not get sufficient protection from the vaccine themselves, so people who care for them need to be vaccinated.  The flu vaccine is available free of charge to healthcare workers from their local Occupational Health department.

As part of the launch, Dr. Lynda Sisson, Clinical Lead, HSE Workplace Health & Wellbeing Unit announced the launch of a Flu Education E-learning Module on HSEland (part of the internal HSE website).  According to Dr. Sisson: “This Flu E Learning module has been designed to educate and inform healthcare workers about the vaccine, and to address some of the myths surrounding its use.  Flu is a preventable disease, that causes service illness and deaths in Ireland every year.  But the flu can be stopped in its tracks by a simple, free vaccination at work that only takes five minutes of your time.”

Dr. Sisson concluded: “Our focus in the Workplace Health & Wellbeing Unit is to help staff stay well this winter, and to help them achieve a flu free workplace.  By getting the vaccine staff protect yourselves,  their families, their colleagues, friends and the people they look after in the health service.”

Further information is available for healthcare workers on www.immunisation.ie

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