Why are NHS workers not keen on the flu jab?

A remarkably low number of NHS workers choose to have a free flu vaccine, prompting fears staff illness could put more pressure on already stretched services over winter.
A remarkably low number of NHS workers choose to have a free flu vaccine, prompting fears staff illness could put more pressure on already stretched services over winter.

A “remarkably low” number of NHS workers choose to have a free flu vaccine, prompting fears staff illness could put more pressure on already stretched services over winter.

Health chiefs at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust (BHT) have insisted they do “everything they can” to encourage staff to have the jab – however in 2017/18 just 60 per cent opted to have the injection.

So far in 2018/19 just 40 per cent of staff have had a flu jab ahead of winter, leaving councillors “scratching their heads” over why uptake is so low.

This year there was also a shortage in a new type of vaccine specifically for people over the age of 65, which protects against various strains of the virus, as there was only one manufacturer producing it.

Speaking at a meeting of Bucks County Council’s (BCC) health and wellbeing board on Thursday (December 6) chairman, Martin Tett, said: “There is still a remarkably low take-up against NHS staff of this.

“You would think there would be virtually a 100 per cent take up. Is there a reason for this?

“I scratch my head on it. It’s free, it’s very simple, it’s readily available and it can keep you well – what’s not to like? I just don’t understand why it is relatively low.”

Aylesbury Vale district councillor, Mark Winn, raised concerns the lack of uptake would lead to staff shortages, stating: “How much staff time is actually lost to the flu?

“Obviously there will be staff shortages in A&E and hospitals as a result of people catching the flu. If that can be prevented, that message needs to get out to staff.”

However clinical chair at Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Raj Bajwa, said it is often more difficult to get healthy workers to have the vaccine, as they believe they are less at risk of getting the virus.

He said: “Younger adults with long term conditions and healthy workers do not perceive themselves to be at great risk of getting the flu.

“Even if they do get the flu it is not likely it will have major health consequences for them and therefore their motivation to have it may be lower than someone who is elderly or frail.”

Director of strategy and business development at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, David Williams, said the vaccine is not mandatory, however “a lot of work” takes place to encourage teams to have it.