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NHS staff, patients and parents urged to get flu vaccine

PHE tells GPs to call in all eligible children for nasal spray by early December, and to use injected vaccine if no spray available

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

NHS England and Public Health England (PHE) are urging NHS staff as well as vulnerable patients to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible before flu begins to circulate widely, and for parents to ensure that their children are immunised, to protect themselves and others. PHE has advised GPs to invite all eligible children by early December, and to offer injected flu vaccine if they cannot obtain the nasal spray in their area. The Royal College of Midwifery is encouraging pregnant women and all midwives and maternity support workers to get their vaccine.

PHE yesterday announced an end to the temporary pause in the ordering of the nasal spray, Fluenz TetraTM (Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine), which was caused by delays from the manufacturer – the spray cannot be stockpiled in because the components of the vaccine change every year and it has a very short shelf life – so the primary schools-based flu vaccination programme is once again underway.

PHE added that primary school clinics will be rescheduled as soon as possible and the majority of children will receive the nasal spray vaccine in school – but it also said that children in high-risk groups should visit their GP as soon as possible if their school session has been delayed, to ensure that they are protected early.

Children and young people who are eligible for a flu vaccine and may receive the vaccine through their GP include those who were aged two and three (on 31 August 2019), children of primary school age, as well as carers, those who are pregnant and those in clinical risk groups including people with chronic neurological disease; chronic respiratory disease; chronic heart disease; chronic kidney disease; chronic liver disease; diabetes; immunosuppression; asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen.

PHE has advised GPs to call in all eligible children for vaccination by early December. It added: “If locally, a school or GP is unable to offer Fluenz Tetra to a high-risk child, they should receive the injected vaccine instead, to avoid delay in being protected.”

At the same time, chief nursing officer for England Ruth May is leading this year’s drive to ensure that as many NHS staff as possible get vaccinated against seasonal flu, with the joint aims of making them less likely to need time off over the busy winter period (a 10% increase in NHS staff vaccination reduces healthcare worker sickness absence by about 10%) or to pass on influenza to vulnerable patients.

In her letter to all NHS frontline workers, Ruth May said: “Last winter, the overall rate topped 70% for the first time, with almost three quarters of a million colleagues making the choice to protect themselves and their patients. This is a great achievement, and we want to thank everyone who made it possible. Despite that continued progress, we can do better… We all have a shared professional responsibility to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients this winter and the flu vaccine is the best defence we have against the spread of flu.”

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