Health and social care workers across Northern Ireland have been urged to get their free flu vaccination this year at participating community pharmacies or through their employers.
Health and Social Care workers who come into regular contact with patients are four times more likely to be exposed to flu than the general population. This means they’re at higher risk of getting the flu and passing it to vulnerable patients and family members. With the additional threat of COVID-19 as well as influenza this year, it is more important than ever for health and social care workers to get the flu vaccine.
Early studies show that for some people with both COVID-19 and flu virus, there is an increased risk of complications and death. Each year the flu vaccine protects against the most common strains of flu likely to be circulating. Currently there is no vaccine against COVID-19.
By offering the vaccine through community pharmacies, health and social care workers especially those who may not work in a hospital site such as care workers, district nurses, health visitors and social workers can get the flu vaccination at their convenience, in their local pharmacy.
Joe Brogan, Head of Pharmacy, Health and Social Care Board said: “We are working with community pharmacies to provide a convenient alternative for health and social care workers to get the free flu vaccination. Although health trusts offer the flu vaccine at drop in clinics in hospitals, we realise the clinic times may not be convenient for some people and they can now choose to get vaccinated at a local participating community pharmacy. This is particularly important for those working in private care homes, domiciliary care workers or other independent services such as hospices”.
Every winter, flu kills around 8000 people in the UK and seasonal flu is a key factor in causing winter pressures on the health service. The annual flu immunisation programme is about protecting those most at risk of serious illness from flu and in turn, reducing GP consultations, unplanned hospital admissions, pressure on emergency departments and staff absence.
Louise Flanagan, Consultant in Health Protection, Public Health Agency said: “For most people, flu is a very unpleasant but self-limiting illness, but in some cases and especially for those in ‘at risk’ groups, it can be very dangerous and sometimes fatal. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of ensuring health and social care workers are protected against disease. I would urge all health and social care workers to avail of this service and get vaccinated, as we know this is the best way to protect against the flu and to protect themselves, their loved ones and their patients.”
Gerard Greene, Chief Executive, Community Pharmacy NI said: “We welcome the introduction of the Community Pharmacy Seasonal Influenza Vaccine for our health and social care workers as it will help protect patients and staff from the winter flu, easing mounting pressures within our health service.
“Everyone must play a part in helping manage the risk of the winter flu, due to the serious pressures we already face with Covid-19 and community pharmacies across Northern Ireland are committed to playing their role. The service enables health workers to get their flu vaccine at a time and location which suits them; often in the evening or at weekends, when traditional vaccine providers are likely to be unavailable.
This Community Pharmacy Flu Vaccination programme has been developed in partnership with the Department of Health, Health and Social Care Board, Public Health Agency and Community Pharmacy NI.
The list of participating community pharmacies who are offering the free flu vaccination for health and social care staff can be accessed at the following link: