Two of the MidWest’s main hospitals have registered some of the lowest take-up rates of the flu vaccine this past winter.
Management within the hospitals group admits the figures are disappointing, even if there has been an increase.
Just over 10% of eligible staff at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital received the flu jab, along with 14% of workers at University Maternity Hospital Limerick.
Only one other hospital nationally, in Kilkenny, registered a lower number.
22% of staff at Ennis General and 27% of workers at University Hospital Limerick were given the injection.
The national uptake target is 40%, a figure which was not met at any acute hospital in the region.
However, this target was met at St. Joseph’s in Ennis, and greatly exeeded at Regina House in Kilrush.
The figures are contained in the provisional end-of-year report by the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
A Statement from the UL Hospitals Group said it was disappointed with the overall uptake rate last winter, but noted that St John’s Hospital, UHL and Nenagh Hospital came close to the average uptake of 31.6%.
It also says the Group is determined to redouble its efforts for the coming flu season with a major staff vaccination and awareness campaign.
Statement from UL Hosptials Group:
While UL Hospitals Group is disappointed with the overall uptake rate last winter, it should be noted that the proportion of staff who did get vaccinated during the 2016/17 flu season actually increased on the previous year. UL Hospitals was starting from a lower base compared to other groups but a number of hospitals– St John’s Hospital (28.9%), University Hospital Limerick (27.4%) and Nenagh Hospital (26.5%) – came close to national average uptake of 31.6%.
While progress has been modest, the Group is determined to redouble its efforts for the coming flu season with a major staff vaccination and awareness campaign.
Last year’s flu campaign involved vaccination clinics led by occupational health colleagues in all hospitals. Additional opportunities for vaccination were brought into the work environment by specially-appointed peer vaccinators from among our staff. As part of last year’s campaign, 50 flu champions were appointed across the Group to encourage staff to get vaccinated. There was also a significant communications campaign internally as well as in the local media on the importance of getting the vaccine to protect patients and staff.
It is noteworthy that staff in University Maternity Hospital Limerick and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital did not have as many opportunities to get the vaccination as staff in other sites – either through vaccination clinics or the peer vaccinator programme. Improving access to the vaccine across all six sites this year should help uptake rates increase.
This year’s campaign will also focus on a number of key messages around the importance of getting vaccinated and the safety of the vaccine itself.
In 2013, Ireland was part of a major pan-European study which analysed the previous eight flu seasons. That research showed that excess mortality due to influenza was in the range 200 to 500 during most seasons in Ireland, and as high as a 1,000 during a particularly severe season. Flu can be a very serious illness and represents a serious challenge to the health service. Fortunately, we have a safe and reliable vaccine to protect us from flu. And those of us working in hospitals, nursing homes and any healthcare setting have a particular responsibility to get immunised to protect vulnerable patients.
The more staff who get the vaccine, the fewer who will be absent from work through illness during what is the busiest time of the year in our hospitals.
It is estimated that at least 20% of healthcare workers are infected with flu every year and many continue to work despite being ill, which increases the risk to their colleagues and patients. There are many reports of flu outbreaks within hospitals and long term care facilities where unvaccinated healthcare workers are likely to have infected patients and facilitated the spread of the disease. Institutions with high levels of healthcare worker immunisation in Europe have shown reduced rates of flu-like illness, hospitalisation and deaths from flu in the elderly.
The flu vaccine is safe and effective and cannot give you the flu. Seasonal flu vaccines have been given for more than 60 years to millions of people across the world. Reactions are generally mild and serious side effects are very rare.
And it must be repeated every year to give the best possible protection to health workers, their patients and their families. It is important for all those in the at-risk groups to be vaccinated again this year as the virus strains in the vaccine have changed since last year.
At-risk groups include the over-65s; people with long-term chronic illnesses; pregnant women and residents of nursing homes and other longstay facilities
Seasonal flu vaccines are safe and have been given for more than 60 years to millions of people across the world. Reactions are generally mild and serious side effects are very rare.
In addition to seasonal flu vaccination, some people in the at-risk groups may also need pneumococcal vaccine which is available from GPs. Pneumococcal vaccine is not required every year – most people only need to get it once, so those at risk should check with their GP.
The HSE provides the flu and pneumococcal vaccine free of charge for all those in the at-risk groups.
The vaccine and consultation are free for those with a Medical Card or GP Visit Card. Those without a Medical Card or GP Visit Card will be charged a consultation fee.
Those aged 18 years or older in the at risk groups may attend either their GP or pharmacist for vaccination and those under 18 years should attend their GP.
The HSE’s dedicated flu website – www.hse.e/flu – provides details on the annual flu vaccination and the pneumococcal vaccine, along with answers to any questions people may have about flu. Information leaflets are available to download. Information leaflets are also available in GP surgeries, pharmacists and HSE Local Health Offices