Call for compulsory flu jab for care staff in high-risk hospital areas

Royal College of Physicians of Ireland urges mandatory vaccine to protect patients

Last winter, 45 per cent of hospital staff and a third of those in nursing homes got the flu jab. This winter, the target is 60 per cent. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA

Last winter, 45 per cent of hospital staff and a third of those in nursing homes got the flu jab. This winter, the target is 60 per cent. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA

 

The flu vaccine should be mandatory for doctors, nurses and care staff in high-risk parts of hospitals such as intensive care, cancer wards and emergency departments, according to a new report.

The needs of patients must take priority over the personal choice of hospital staff in order to protect overall population health, says the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

Surgeons must already be vaccinated against Hepatitis B, or provide evidence of immunity to the virus – though the infectious risk posed to patients is much lower than that from influenza, it points out.

Target of 60%

Uptake of the flu vaccine among healthcare staff has improved. Last winter, 45 per cent of hospital staff and a third of those in nursing homes got the jab. This winter, the target is 60 per cent.

Healthcare workers who need to decline the flu vaccination on medical grounds should wear a mask during the flu season, and/or be moved to a place where they pose a lower risk to others, the report says.

Flu vaccination should be “one element” of efforts to lower the flu risk. Meanwhile, infected patients should be kept away from others, while staff should be better-trained to stave off infection, and stay off work when they have it.

Despite improving vaccination rates, dean of the faculty of occupational medicine at RCPI Dr Blánaid Hayes said they remain far too low to provide immunity for vulnerable patients.