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Why do the majority of NHS staff not get the flu vaccine?

From BBC - January 10, 2018

All NHS staff in Scotland are offered a flu vaccination but less than half have had it. Why?

The number of people going to see the doctor with influenza-like illness is higher than any year since 2010-11 but the rate is still considered "moderate" by health experts.

In order to halt the spread of the virus, the government recommends that people who qualify for the vaccination take it up.

Those eligible include young children, people over 65, pregnant women and those working in the health service.

Of these groups, it seems that NHS workers have the lowest rate of take-up, with just over 40% of staff - including those who have contact with patients and those who do not - having had the jab.

Flu vaccination rates

Earlier this week, Sir Bruce Keogh, national medical director of NHS England, called for a "serious debate" over whether NHS staff should be forced to have the vaccination.

He said thousands of healthcare workers were unwittingly "putting patients and their own families at risk" by not having the flu jab.

In the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, Health Secretary Shona Robison told MSPs the take-up among NHS staff was "lower than we would want".

Ms Robison said "ultimately" it was a decision for each individual to take but urged those eligible to get the flu vaccination.

The NHS recommends that anyone in health and social care who works directly with patients should get the vaccine.

It also offers it to anyone working in:

Are NHS staff selfish for not having the vaccination?

England's top doctor said flu was a "double whammy" for the NHS, increasing the number of patients and putting staff out of action.

He said a third of people with the virus do not know they are carrying it so staff may not be aware they are putting patients, colleagues and their own families at risk.

In 2011, the then chief medical officer in England, Dame Sally Davies, criticised those who did not get the jab, describing them as "selfish".

BBC Scotland spoke to a number of doctors and nurses who said many believe the flu vaccine was "ineffective".

One GP, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "When flu changes to a new strain, the old vaccine no longer works.

"The evidence is conflicted on the benefits. The current epidemic still happened despite the vaccination programme."

Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford, agrees that take up is low because the evidence of its effectiveness is "uncertain".

Prof Heneghan, who is also an out-of-hours GP, told BBC Scotland there was little good evidence on the benefits of giving the vaccination to healthy individuals in the NHS.

He said: "When the evidence is strong and makes a difference to patient care, health workers can be counted on to do the right thing."

Patient care

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