Britain’s National Health Service is “more scared than we have ever been” about the risks of a heavy flu season this winter, due to fears that the vaccination will fail, as it did last year, to protect the elderly
As such this year’s flu vaccine program will be pushing the vaccinations on those who come into contact with pensioners.
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All NHS workers have received letters requesting that staff must to “do their duty” and get vaccinated, with those who opt out told they will have to explain themselves.
The Telegraph reports:
Sir Malcolm Grant, chairman of NHS England, last night said he fears hospitals will be “inundated” with cases, despite attempts to bolster services.
His warnings came as the country’s Chief Medical Officer told the Daily Telegraph that she fears the jab may not protect the elderly this winter, but said it is still “our best hope” to stave off an NHS crisis.
Dame Sally, England’s most senior doctor today urged 21 million people eligible for free vaccinations – including young children, pensioners, and health workers – to take up the jabs.
However, last year’s jab had zero effectiveness among over 65s, an official evaluation reveals, while protecting two in three children.
This year’s programme will push further on trying to protect those who come into contact with pensioners, in case the vaccination fails as badly this year, with fears flu rates could be far higher.
In a letter sent to all NHS workers, staff are told to “do their duty” and get vaccinated – with those who opt out told they will have to explain themselves.
More than one million care home workers will also be offered the jab, in a bid to reduce levels of transmission to vulnerable residents.
It comes amid fears “precarious” NHS services could be overwhelmed by a heavy flu season.
Health officials are anxious about how hospitals will cope if patterns seen in Australia – which has just battled the worst flu season for almost two decades – are replicated here.
Yesterday Sir Malcolm Grant, chairman of NHS England, said health service leaders were extremely fearful of what this winter could bring.
He told a conference in Bournemouth: “We face winter better prepared than we have ever been, but more scared than we have ever been.
“We have the strong likelihood of hospitals being inundated with people suffering flu.”
Officials are particularly fearful because of evidence that last year’s vaccine failed to protect those over 65.
An evaluation of last year’s programme, seen by The Daily Telegraph, shows pensioners who had the jab fared no better than those who did not. Protection rates were far higher among children, with 66 per cent protection, the figures show.
This year’s vaccine is similar to last year’s, which failed to effectively counter strains like those which have recently proved virulent in Australia.
As well as focussing on children, who are “super-spreaders” of the vaccine, officials hope heavy vaccination of NHS and care staff who come into contact with the elderly will help to reduce the risk of transmission.
Prof Dame Sally urged all those eligible for the jab to take up the offer, saying it was the best protection on offer.