The need for forward planning means that even as we head into the summer months, the effectiveness of the winter flu vaccine is being discussed at national level. A new report from the International Longevity Centre has suggested that the benefits of the flu vaccine are not being conveyed effectively enough and more needs to be done to raise vaccination rates amongst older people. The report suggests that in order to boost uptake, the flu vaccination should be considered as a healthy lifestyle choice, similar to taking regular exercise or vitamins.
The need for effective uptake of the flu vaccine in care homes is even greater as the virus can spread quickly between vulnerable service users. For this reason, care homes will need to place greater focus not only on uptake amongst older service users, but amongst staff too. Read on to find out more about planning ahead for the flu season, while time is still on your side.
Despite the World Health Organisation setting an uptake target of 75% for adult flu vaccinations, the average rate of flu vaccination amongst older people actually few from 49% to 43% between 2005 and 2015. Uptake amongst social care workers has also been disappointingly low although the NHS has made attempts to improve the situation by offering the vaccination free of charge last winter.
Use Our 5 Tips to Improve the Uptake of Flu Vaccination This Year
- Start Early: It may only be early summer but starting to plan now will make sure you’re one step ahead when the flu season arrives. This year, the NHS flu vaccination campaign will become part of Public Health England’s winter campaign and you can register for updates and resources now on the campaign resource centre of its website.
- Don’t Leave It to Chance: Your staff are unlikely to engage with national campaigns to boost uptake unless you bring them to their attention. Consider setting up your own in-house ‘winter wellness’ campaign to raise awareness of the flu vaccination and signpost staff to where it can be obtained.
- Deal with Common Myths: Both your service users and staff are likely to have objections to the flu vaccination which could be based on common myths or misunderstanding e.g. that the vaccination may actually cause flu. Be ready to provide accurate and factual information in response to any questions or concerns.
- Work with Family Members: Service users are far more likely to agree to vaccination if their families understand the need for it. Raise awareness of the benefits of the flu vaccine well in advance of the winter season so that family members can start to discuss them with their loved one sooner rather than later. Service users who feel rushed into a decision are far more likely to object that those who can make an informed choice.
- Lead by Example: Be amongst the first to access the flu vaccine this winter and encourage your staff to do the same. Taking the lead and showing that you recognise the importance of vaccination will set a standard for others to follow.