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Employers must make getting vaccinated against influenza as easy as possible for their health and care workers by offering jabs on site and during shifts, the Royal College of Nursing has urged.
The college made the appeal today as it launched its annual #BeatTheFlu campaign, which it said was more important than ever this year in the wake of the pandemic.
“We know that if organisations make the vaccine easy to access, uptake goes up exponentially”
It is calling on nursing staff and students to do their bit to minimise the “double threat” of Covid-19 and flu this winter by taking up the offer of a free flu vaccination as soon as possible.
At the same time, organisations must do everything they can to give health and care professionals “easy access” to the vaccine, said the RCN.
Helen Donovan (pictured above), RCN professional lead for public health, said: “It’s vital that as many nursing staff as possible take the flu vaccine as early as possible, to help protect themselves and those around them, including their families and patients.
“With the double threat of flu and Covid-19 this year, this message is more important than ever.”
She added: “Organisations must make the vaccine readily available, with easy access to it during the working day.
“They shouldn’t expect staff or students to have to travel significant distances, or take time out of work.
“We know that if organisations make the vaccine easy to access, uptake goes up exponentially.”
Ms Donovan called on RCN members to not only heed the messages of the campaign themselves, but to support it by spreading the word in their places of work or study, and on social media.
Universal uptake of the flu vaccination among health and care staff is being expected this year.
The groups of people eligible for a flu vaccine among the general public has also been expanded in the wake of the pandemic.
As well as encouraging staff uptake of the flu vaccine, the campaign seeks to support those delivering the jabs such as practice nurses, and to promote healthy living in the winter months.
While the full implications of the flu and Covid-19 viruses circulating at the same time are not yet clear, the RCN said increases in hospital admissions were expected.
The urgency behind the college’s campaign was reflected by chief nursing officer for England, Ruth May, earlier this month when she said the call on staff to get vaccinated this year was “the most vital we have ever made”.
She warned: “The flu has a serious impact on the health of thousands of people every winter, and with the added risk of Covid-19 this year the NHS needs as many of its staff as possible to be fighting fit over the coming months.”
Meanwhile, the Royal College of General Practitioners has recently warned over the consequences for the flu vaccination delivery programme if primary care staff including nurses struggle to access Covid-19 testing.