Up to two-thirds of hospital staff in Portlaoise and its sister hospitals in the Dublin and Midlands did not get the flu vaccine according to a new HSE survey.
The Dublin Midlands Hospital Group conducted a survey with staff in Naas General Hospital, the Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore and the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise, and focus groups in Tallaght University Hospital, following the 2017/2018 flu season.
The HSE says the purpose of the staff survey was to determine what factors influence staff getting the vaccine or choosing not to get the flu vaccine.
The survey found that 44% of staff got last year’s flu vaccine. The data provides evidence that further awareness and education about the dangers of flu, and the need to get the vaccine, is required.
The main reasons staff reported getting the vaccine-related to concern for own health, ease of access to the vaccine, concern for patient and concern for their families.
Other reasons cited for not getting the vaccine included: concern about the side effects of the vaccine, they stated that they never get the flu, they were concerned about the effectiveness of the flu vaccine and staff reported that they got the flu after they previously got the vaccine.
The figures were published at the launch of a campaign to promote vaccine.
A former hurling All-Star shared his near-death experience in an effort to highlight the dangers of flu as we approach peak flu season in a video launched at the midlands.
Séan Treacy, who was a Galway star of the 80s and 90s, and his wife Geraldine, recalled the devastating events which lead to Sean spending 10 days in an induced coma following multi-organ failure after he contracted a strain of influenza in 2013.
This video devised from the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group aims to address these concerns expressed by staff in an effort to promote awareness of the benefits of being vaccinated for the protection of themselves and their families.
The HSE says the 2017/2018 flu season was very drawn out and the number of outbreaks, confirmed hospitalised cases, ICU cases, and associated deaths exceeded all previous records in Ireland, including the 2009 pandemic.
All age groups were affected with a particularly severe impact on older cohorts. There were nearly 5,000 confirmed influenza cases hospitalised last year when compared to nearly 1,500 in the 2016/2017 season.
Healthcare workers are up to 10 times more likely to get the flu than the general population. The former hurler made an impassioned plea to health care workers and the wider public, Séan Treacy.
“I was very healthy, I had no health issues and suddenly I contracted the flu virus and my health and lifestyle changed from that day on. I nearly died, I was very lucky.
"People say that they have the flu, they don’t, they have a cold, and I know how serious the flu can be. If I could save one life from sharing my story today, that is a job well done. If flu can affect me in this way how might it affect a person with a weaker or more compromised immune system,” he said.
The flu vaccine has been available from Hospitals, GPs and Pharmacists since early October. The Dublin Midlands Hospital Group are calling on all healthcare workers and people in at-risk groups to get the flu vaccine as there still is time to protect ourselves, our patients and our families.
At the launch of the education video highlighting Séan’s story in the Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore, Trevor O’Callaghan, Interim Chief Executive Officer at the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group commend Séan and Geraldine for giving their time to raise awareness of the dangers of Flu.
"Flu is potentially a fatal illness and its impact on the hospital systems is significant. Getting protected from flu is an important duty for healthcare workers, because for them, or for their patients, it is a lifesaver. I want to strongly encourage all staff and those at risk to get the vaccine, there is still time," he said.
Ms Eileen Whelan is Chief Director of Nursing & Midwifery & Quality at the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group.
“Flu is responsible for between 200 and 500 deaths each year in Ireland and in a severe season it can cause up to 1,000 deaths. The best way to prevent flu is to get the flu vaccine."
"Flu vaccine is a safe, effective way to help prevent flu infection, avoid hospitalisation and flu-related deaths and illnesses. The flu vaccine is the only defence against the flu, yet many healthcare workers fail to get vaccinated and put themselves and patients at risk of serious illness.
"The simple fact is that if you can’t get the flu, then you can’t spread the flu so it is important that those working in frontline healthcare protect themselves from getting the flu to prevent spreading it to vulnerable patients. A large percentage of people can carry the flu virus and remain asymptomatic so not know they have contracted the virus, but they can transmit the virus to more vulnerable groups causing them to be very unwell,” she said.
The HSE says this year’s seasonal flu vaccine protects against the three common flu virus strains expected to be circulating this year based on advice from the World Health Organization. It is important for healthcare workers and all those in the at-risk groups to be vaccinated again this year as the virus strains in the vaccine have changed since last year.
Older and at-risk patients may not get sufficient protection from the vaccine themselves, so people who care for them need to be vaccinated.
The flu vaccine is available free of charge to healthcare workers from their local Occupational Health department or Peer Vaccinator Clinics. The flu vaccine is available to the wider population from your GP or Pharmacist. The flu vaccine is free if you are in an at-risk group but you may be charged a consultation fee, unless you have a medical card or a GP visit card.
Further information is available for healthcare workers on www.hse.ie/flu