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  • 06 November 2017
  • 3 min read

Should Nurses have their flu vaccine?

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With the threat of a flu epidemic, Ruth Underdown explains why it is important Nurses, and healthcare professionals, receive their vaccine.

It's the time of year when the Occupational Health Nurses leave their cosy offices on the outskirts of the hospital site and decamp to the wards.

They're laden with cool boxes, sharps bins and stickers with 'I've had my flu jab' printed on them.

They accost you as you walk past them on your way to the sluice, offering you a couple jab with all the enthusiasm of Snow White's stepmother holding a poisoned apple.

'Flu jab my dear, it's free and you should have one to protect yourself and your patients'.

'You get a free sticker, and it doesn't hurt, just a small prick...'

I would have been one of the Nurses dancing pasts saying, 'Thanks but no.'

Even as an asthmatic who is at higher risk of serious complications from influenza, I would decline it.

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I would cite the percentages of effectiveness (usually between 40-60%), the mutation rates, and that I'd never caught it before.

So why worry?

Besides, two weeks off work would be quite nice thank you very much!

This year, I was one of the first round of patients at my GP surgery to receive the flu jab. I went in for my asthma check and exposed my deltoid for the shiny needle.

So what has changed?

Facing a flu epidemic

This year, there are predictions that we could experience our worst flu epidemic in several years.

Flu is a killer, and I think to an extent, we have forgotten this with the advances in modern medicine. In my time as an emergency nurse, several years ago, I have seen young adults present with such severe pneumonia, secondary to influenza, that they have needed admission to intensive care.

In the past, this still wasn't enough to sway my refusal to have the jab.

Last Winter, I changed my mind.

Working part time in a care home we were struck with an outbreak of influenza A.

All the residents had been vaccinated. It wasn't them affected. It was the staff.

Whilst collecting data regarding the outbreak, it was revealed that not a single member of staff had had the vaccination.

It was at this point that it hit home for me. We were desperately short of care staff and on lockdown for infection control purposes. It affected staff morale and the amount of time available to give care, as staff member after staff member was felled.

The impact of declining the flu jab felt profound.

This year with the NHS facing a shortage of skilled, qualified staff, and a bed crisis alongside entering an age where antibiotics are less and less effective, vaccination will be the only protection we have.

If you're vaccinated, you don't catch the infection. You're less likely to develop complications needing antibiotic therapy, therefore the bacteria have less chance to mutate into something more resistant and deadly.

As healthcare professionals, it is not only our duty to help prevent the spread of infection, but also to be available to care for those patients who do become severely unwell in the case of an epidemic.

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About the author

Since qualifying in Adult Nursing in 2002 I’ve worked as a specialist nurse with the NHS, and in the private sector as a general nurse and sessional nurse for a hospital at home team (I’ve been about a bit!).

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