Health Minister Robin Swann today stressed the importance of the seasonal influenza vaccination programme for all frontline Health and Social Care workers.
Visiting Holywood Arches Wellbeing and Treatment Centre in East Belfast, where he received his flu vaccination from Chief Nursing Officer Charlotte McArdle, the Minister explained that the immunisation programme is critical element of the system-wide approach for delivering robust and resilient health and social care services.
Mr Swann said: “It is important that we take all necessary measures to help reduce the risk of flu and COVID-19 circulating at the same time during the forthcoming winter. Early evidence suggests that co-infection is associated with increased mortality of over two-fold compared to those with COVID-19 alone.
“It is essential that all frontline Health and Social Care Workers get vaccinated to protect themselves, their families and patients in their care.”
The Minister praised the efforts made by HSC staff to obtain the flu vaccine each year and gave special thanks to occupational health departments and the peer vaccinators who help deliver the flu vaccination. Acknowledging that the uptake in recent years has been too low.
He said: “My Department has set a target of 75% of Health and Social Care Workers receiving the vaccine this year. Seasonal Influenza is a key factor in causing winter pressures within the health service. It impacts on those who fall ill, the health services that provide direct care, and on the wider health and social care system that supports people in at-risk groups.”
The Chief Nursing Officer Professor Charlotte McArdle said that significant work has been undertaken to increase the uptake rate of the flu vaccine this year.
She explained: “Our HSC Trusts have increased the number of peer vaccinators who can offer vaccinations at a local level and I want to thank all the vaccinators for their work. In addition, a number of Community Pharmacies are now offering flu vaccine to Health and Social Care Workers.”
In conclusion, the Health Minister said: “I must encourage all Health and Social Care staff, right across Northern Ireland, support the flu vaccine campaign and get the jab this year. Reducing the pressure caused by seasonal flu will help preserve the capacity of the health and social care system to manage any future waves of COVID, and that’s vitally important.”