The flu. Helping to protect our most vulnerable residents
Liverpool City Council is showing its commitment to helping to protect vulnerable residents and service users from the flu, by embarking on a programme to administer vaccinations to 500 staff who work on the frontline in social care, or who provide essential services.
Clinics started last week, ahead of the launch of the national flu vaccination campaign by the NHS which sees GPs and pharmacies across the country offering free vaccinations to people who are deemed at high risk of developing complications if they contract the flu. Those eligible include everyone aged 65 and over, people of all ages from 6 months old who have long-term health conditions, pregnant women and carers. All primary school children are offered the flu vaccine in school and children aged 2 to 3 can get it through their GP practice.
In Liverpool City Council we recommend that all colleagues who work in frontline health and social care services take up our offer of a free jab.
This is because flu is very infectious. It can live on your hands and on hard surfaces for 24 hours. You can pass the flu to others even if you don’t have any symptoms yourself. It is really important that staff working closely with frail vulnerable individuals get vaccinated themselves so they don’t spread flu to them. Some people have frail immune systems and even if they get vaccinated, struggle to mount a good enough immune response to protect themselves from flu. Getting vaccinated also stops you spreading flu to vulnerable members of your own family.
It is especially important that staff providing direct care for vulnerable people of any age or who are visiting care homes take up the vaccine. As we need to keep our critical services going over the winter, it is important also that staff on duty rotas or delivering priority services are vaccinated.
Flu is often underestimated. It is a nasty virus which can cause serious illness. On average, 8,000 people die every year in the UK due to flu complications. Some years, the numbers dying can be even higher. In 2017/18, an estimated 26,000 people died of flu in UK.
People with lung conditions like chronic bronchitis or asthma are seven times more likely to die if they catch flu compared to healthy adults, and people with heart disease or angina, or who have had a stroke, are 11 times more likely to die.
Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from this unpredictable virus and to stop you spreading the flu to others. Although we cannot predict with certainty which strains will circulate in the UK this winter, every year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) makes recommendations for flu vaccine production based on the strains which are most likely to circulate. This autumn, different types of flu vaccine are available for different groups which should offer better protection.
Children can get very sick from flu. They are also really good at spreading the flu around because of not washing their hands or covering their coughs and sneezes. These days, all primary school children are offered a flu nasal spray in school. They will be sent home a consent form so watch out for this. Pre-schoolers aged 2 and 3 should get the vaccine spray too. Many Liverpool parents are not aware about the vaccine for pre-schoolers. Others do not realise that the flu vaccine spray for children is easy for them — it just involves a quick spray in each nostril and they are protected. Parents need to contact your GP to arrange.
I urge everyone who is eligible for a free flu vaccine at work or through the NHS programme to get your vaccine, and encourage your loved ones to protect themselves as well. We know that over 70% of Liverpool people aged 65 and over get their jab every year, uptake for people with health conditions is about 50%, and 40% for pregnant women. We want to better these figures this winter so we would be grateful for your help in sharing information about flu jabs with service users, family and friends.
Dr Emer Coffey, Associate Director of Public Health- Health Protection. Liverpool City Council.