Information for health and social care workers

Scotland’s Chief Medical and Chief Nursing Officers agree – healthcare workers should have the flu vaccine. Being a healthcare worker means you have enough to be thinking about without worrying about catching the flu. 

Over the last ten years, the flu vaccine has generally been a good match for the circulating strains of flu so you can be confident being vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself against a virus which can cause serious illness. Even when it is not as well matched, if you do develop flu, symptoms may be less severe and you may be less likely to develop complications requiring you to see your GP or being admitted to hospital. 

Five reasons to get the vaccine

1. It’s the best way to help protect yourself against flu this year.

2. It reduces the risk of spreading flu to your family, patients and colleagues who could be at risk of catching the virus.

3. Infected healthcare workers can spread their infection to their patients and family even if they have very mild symptoms or have no symptoms at all.

4. Patients with health conditions are 18 times more likely to die from flu than healthy people.

5. Even for healthy people, flu can be serious, making them feel extremely unwell and unable to carry on with everyday activities.

Questions and answers:

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Who is eligible?

It’s recommended that anyone who works in health and social care, and is directly involved in patient care, should have the flu vaccine. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • anyone who works in a GP practice, pharmacy or hospital
  • workers in paediatric wards, cancer centres and intensive care
  • those working in a dental surgery, social care or care homes. 
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Who needs the flu immunisation?

Health and social care staff directly involved in patient care are recommended to have the vaccine. Some of the jobs and areas covered include:

  • GP practices
  • pharmacies
  • hospitals
  • paediatric wards
  • cancer centres
  • intensive care units
  • dental surgeries
  • social care
  • care homes.
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Why is the flu vaccine recommended for healthcare workers?

Healthcare workers are more likely to be exposed to the flu virus. Every year in Scotland, a number of healthcare workers get flu, particularly where there are flu outbreaks in care homes and hospitals. By getting the vaccine you’re reducing the risk of getting flu yourself, as well as spreading it to your family and colleagues.

You’ll also be keeping flu away from patients, who can be more vulnerable due to their health conditions. In fact, people with a compromised immune system are over 50 times more likely than a healthy person to die of flu. And people with liver problems are 80 times more likely to die.

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How does the flu vaccine work?

The vaccine takes around 10 days to work and will protect you against this year’s flu. You have to get immunised annually because the virus changes constantly and your immunity reduces over time.

Last year's vaccine won’t necessarily protect you from this year’s flu viruses. It’s important to remember that the flu vaccine can’t give you flu, but can stop you catching it.

For the maximum protection possible, make sure you get immunised every year.

It won’t make you infectious, so it’s safe to carry on with your normal duties once you’ve been immunised.

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Where can I get the flu immunisation?

To arrange a vaccine, speak to your line manager or occupational health department for details. Or visit the NHS Education for Scotland website to watch a short film to find out why getting immunised against flu is important. It’s also a good idea to remind patients with underlying medical conditions, and pregnant women, to get immunised too.

Remember, it’s very safe, only takes a few minutes and will last around a year.

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Is the vaccine safe?

The Scottish Government has no safety concerns about the vaccines used in the seasonal flu programme. As with all medicines used in Scotland, the influenza vaccines undergo rigorous safety testing by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and no new concerns were reported. The MHRA continues to monitor the safety of these vaccines.

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Last reviewed on 19 September 2016

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