England’s deputy chief medical officer has urged health and social care staff to get the winter flu vaccination, claiming they had a “very strong professional responsibility” to do so.
Figures point to a marked increase in the number of workers getting the vaccine, but in some areas uptake rates were reported to be as low as 40 or 50%.
The target for this season has been set at above 90% and the vaccine will be offered free of charge to staff in the frontline health and social care sectors.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said: “We do know that flu infections, while sometimes severe, can also be asymptomatic, and staff can spread flu without realising it.
“From a patient perspective, you don’t want to be in a situation where you feel that seven out ten of the healthcare professionals you meet will be vaccinated; you’d like to be in a situation where nine or ten out of ten you meet are vaccinated.
“So I think there’s a very, very strong professional responsibility on healthcare workers to be vaccinated.”
UNISON head of health Sara Gorton responded to Van-Tam’s comments by saying that “no NHS worker would ever willingly put patients or colleagues at risk.”
“The highest vaccination rates are in trusts that encourage staff to get the jab, not those where employees are coerced,” she said.
“Pressuring staff to have the injection, when some may be reluctant for genuine reasons, is counter-productive. The NHS couldn’t get by without the goodwill of its staff and trusts shouldn’t jeopardise that.”