Lesley Carter is Age UK’s Clinical Lead and an expert on care for older people. Here she explains why it's important that care home and domiciliary workers providing care for older people should get their flu jab.
Why should front line care workers have the jab?
The flu bug is at its most infectious in environments with lots of people and can spread rapidly. Flu is tricky because not everyone who gets it will have the same symptoms – some will have mild symptoms, while some may have none at all. Unfortunately, as staff continue going about their business they are at risk of infecting everyone they come into contact with, particularly if they’re not practicing good hand hygiene.
If you're 65 and over, it's vital that you have your seasonal flu vaccination. Here are are all the things you need to know.
Why is it so important?
Last winter 69.6% of flu outbreaks occurred in care homes. This is likely because our immune systems become less efficient as we age. In later life the symptoms can be more severe, take longer to recover from, and even become life-threatening. This means it’s vital that staff working in care homes or visiting someone’s home in a care setting are protected.
We hear many confusing messages about flu jabs and their importance. NHS campaigns work hard to help promote their uptake in hospitals, but what about all the frontline staff outside of hospitals, including care homes and domiciliary care? They provide the community care to keep people independent at home for as long as possible. They will be caring for the very young, older people, and other vulnerable groups.
The flu strain is different each year so it’s important that vaccination becomes an annual priority.
Don't some people think the jab is bad for you?
Some people believe the jab gives you the flu. That's not true. The injectable vaccine does not contain any live viruses and cannot cause flu. It can take up to two weeks to fully protect effect you and so you can still become unwell during this time.
Others worry they will have a reaction. The flu vaccine can sometimes cause a mild fever and slight muscle aches for a day or so. Severe allergic reactions are rare and usually happen within minutes of having the vaccine.
Some people are reluctant to get the jab because they worry about having to pay for the vaccination – but many workplaces will pay for the vaccine, and some may be able to get the vaccine for free from a pharmacy or their GP.
The mild side effects are a small price to pay to keep the people you care for, and you and yours safe and protected for the winter. Get your flu jab done, practice good hand hygiene and you're halfway there.
Keep well this winter
Remind yourself of the simple things we can do to be healthy and happy this winter with our top tips and more.
This article previously incorrectly stated that all frontline care workers can get the flu vaccine for free from their GP and Pharmacy. Where workers are eligible, their workplaces should organises the distribution and payment of the vaccine.