Busting the flu jab myth

To mark #Jabathon 2017, NHS England’s Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer dispels the old wives’ tale about the flu vaccination:

Last winter 63 per cent 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:

Many people believe the flu vaccine causes you to have flu. As a pharmacist, I can tell you quite categorically 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-four 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, in a very small number of cases, it can cause 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.

  • NHS Employers’ 2017 #jabathon runs from 6 -10 November and asks NHS and social care staff to share their reasons for getting the flu jab. The aim is to encourage conversations around the flu vaccination that will inspire healthcare workers to get their jab.
  • To keep up to date with the #jabathon conversation, follow @NHSflufighter on Twitter.
Dr Bruce Warner

Dr Bruce Warner works closely with the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer on the strategic and operational development of medicines policy for NHS England. Prior to this post, Bruce worked as Deputy Director of Patient Safety at the NPSA and in NHS England where he led on the strategy for patient safety improvement and headed up the patient safety advice and guidance function.

Bruce has worked in most sectors of pharmacy including community, hospital, academia and at a PCG/T. He is also a visiting Professor of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Huddersfield.

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