Getting the flu jab is even more important this year as we desperately need to shield our hospitals and help reduce the burden on our health service. Vaccination of healthcare workers has been shown to reduce flu-related deaths by up to 40%.
Sinéad Creedon, who has just taken on her new role as the Infection Prevention and Control Clinical Nurse Specialist for Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH), reminded people that the majority of flu infections are asymptomatic and healthcare workers are often the likely source of infection.
She urged her colleagues to ensure they get the flu vaccine this year to protect themselves and others. Ireland South Women and Infants Directorate has set a Directorate-wide target of 95% uptake of the vaccine this year. Last year the national uptake was 59% but CUMH’s uptake was 38%.
Sinéad has been involved in promoting and administering peer vaccination as well as patient vaccination for the past five years in a large multinational company in Cork, where uptake is high.
“It is imperative that each of us thinks very carefully this year about our duties and obligations, both as healthcare workers and fellow human beings, as we battle together against COVID-19. Although not mandatory, the Medical Council of Ireland state ‘it’s your duty to protect yourself from common infectious diseases’ and the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) recommends influenza vaccine for all nurses and midwives,” said Sinéad.
The Centre for Disease Control undertook a systematic review and concluded that healthcare worker (HCW) vaccination can enhance patient safety. One of their studies showed a 40% reduction of influenza related deaths in hospitals with higher rates of HCW influenza vaccination.
'Shot on the Spot'
This year CUMH is launching ‘Shot on the Spot’, the influenza peer vaccination campaign, which Sinéad hopes will have maximum impact this year.
“Ireland does not have a good track-record in general for peer influenza vaccination and that is due to lack of knowledge, belief systems and myths surrounding the flu vaccine. Anti-vaccination is nothing more than a ‘belief system’. It is based merely on stories on what people think and believe, in the absence of any medical or science-based evidence,” she said.
“A survey of over 3,000 NHS staff reported that unvaccinated staff were significantly more likely to respond that it was too much trouble to get the vaccine, they felt less at risk of getting flu, and they thought the vaccine would make them feel unwell. Sound familiar? These are not reasons to not get the flu vaccine. Did you know that flu vaccines have been around for over 50 years? You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine starts to work within two weeks of getting it – some people become unwell with other circulating viruses in this time period and mistakenly think it was the vaccination that caused their illness.”
The flu vaccine is free of charge at CUMH and nationally over the coming months. The vaccine is an injection given into the muscle in the upper arm and takes less than 60 seconds. The most common side effect is soreness at the injection site for 24-48 hours.
Get your flu shot on the spot: it costs many people their lives, but it will cost you nothing.