Flu jabs are a must

Influenza vaccine will help protect you and your patients

All nurses should receive an influenza vaccination to help protect themselves, their co-workers and patients, health authorities recommend.

Flu vaccination also reduces the burden on the health system and saves employers money, research shows.

Flu vaccine does help to keep nurses healthy. A study at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital showed a net saving of 2.1 hours sick leave per 1,000 hours worked.

NSW Health policy requires health care facilities to offer nurses influenza vaccinations.

This applies to all staff who have direct or indirect contact with patients or blood and body substances (Occupational Screening and Vaccination Against Infectious Diseases, Policy Directive PD2005–338).

Where employers provide a flu vaccination program to protect staff or patients from influenza in keeping with OH&S obligations, the vaccination must be provided to staff free of charge.

The OHS Act makes it illegal to charge employees for anything that the employer does in order to comply with OH&S legislation.

The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that health care providers, staff of nursing homes and staff of long-term care facilities (eg developmental disability residentials) be immunised against influenza in order to protect vulnerable groups such as patients and elderly residents (The Australian Immunisation Handbook, 8th edition, 2003).

Research in the United States shows that health care workers infected with influenza can transmit the virus to seriously ill patients in their care.

Many of these patients may be at high risk for influenza-related complications, which may result in prolonged hospitalisation, admission to ICU and even death, according to Dr William Schaffner, Professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in the US.

Flu vaccines relieve the burden on the health system by reducing infection including prolonged hospital stays, and employers benefit from reduced sick leave and reduced productivity losses.

A study carried out in a large Australian manufacturing firm in the year 2000 influenza season, identified a net cost saving of $20.93 to $58.36 for each vaccinated employee.

The study concluded that the vaccination program was cost effective, even though the year 2000 was considered a low activity influenza season. The authors reported, ‘Where there is a good match between vaccine and circulating virus strains, vaccination should offer a cost-effective means of reducing workers’ absenteeism.

Another study found that the vaccination program, in helping to keep its workers flu-free, saved four and a half times the cost of the program. n

Tips to avoid the flu

  • Wash hands frequently including before eating or touching face, eyes, nose and mouth
  • Don’t share cups and glasses, cutlery, toothbrushes etc
  • Avoid close contact with someone who is sick
  • Get a vaccination.