Dr Bruce Warner is the deputy chief pharmaceutical officer at NHS England.
Last winter 63% of all frontline healthcare workers with
direct patient contact received
the seasonal influenza vaccine in England.
It’s great that the number of NHS staff being vaccinated continues
to grow year on year, however I can’t help but wonder why one-third of
frontline staff still choose not to take up the vaccine?
There are a number of myths about the flu vaccine that may be
responsible for discouraging people from choosing to have it. I’d like to talk about one of those myths now.
The flu vaccine does
not cause flu
Many people believe that the flu vaccine causes you to have
flu, and as a pharmacist, I can tell you it’s impossible to get flu from the
flu vaccine because the adult vaccine doesn’t contain live viruses.
While it is true that a small number of people can experience
side effects such as headache or muscle pain, in this small number of cases this
is the body’s immunity recognising the vaccine and creating a reaction.
Although these symptoms can be uncomfortable, they will usually
disappear within days after the injection, and most people do not feel much
more than an achy arm.
It’s particularly important that healthcare workers get
vaccinated, because we know that one in 4 are likely to become infected by flu,
which is a higher risk than in the general population.
While you might be lucky enough to be ‘fighting fit’ and able
to shake off the flu in a few days, there is the possibility that as a
healthcare worker you may transfer it to someone more vulnerable, such as a
pregnant woman, a small child or an asthmatic. As a result, they may have
complications, such as pneumonia, meningitis and even, in a very small number
of cases, death.
I hope the fear of getting ill doesn’t stop you from getting
your vaccine. Please join #jabathon this year, get your flu jab to protect
yourself, and do your bit to protect those who are most vulnerable.
Read more about the evidence for the flu jab.