I’ve just been looking back over a few years newsletters and found that I have been a little late at plugging this year’s flu jabs.
Usually I’m pretty good at getting the message across in September ready for the vaccine season which starts in October. This year’s September newsletter was too full of my frustrations that even with a double edition I couldn’t find enough space – and alas venting my frustrations comes higher on my newsletter priority risk than raising awareness about the flu campaign!
Perhaps I’m getting a little complacent and jaded about flu like the vast majority of the public. I can’t help but feel this sounds a little bit like the boy who cries wolf. Two years ago we were in the throes of the flu pandemic and facing a similar meltdown of society that the financial markets are presently threatening with the Greek/ Spain/Portugal/Ireland crisis.
In the end the flu pandemic fizzled out with barely even a pop – the greatest problems proved to be letting the bureaucrats free to run things and the farcical rules which resulted. In spite of the fact that all those involved gave themselves a pat on the back for a job well done, those of us at the coalface were left with the over-riding feeling that if it had been a true pandemic then we would simply not have managed. I can only hope that someone somewhere really did appreciate that the management was a complete shambles.Alas a bird flu pandemic is still a possibility.
Some boffins playing around in a lab have already created the deadly strain by changing 3 genes in the H5N1 bird flu virus and then allowing it to spread freely amongst a laboratory population of weasels . Two more spontaneous gene mutations later and voila they’d created the killer virus capable of transmitting itself as easily as normal flu amongst the weasel population but killing over 50% of those it infected.
We now know this is no longer a theoretical risk. If these five mutations were to happen in nature then the resulting pandemic could kill 20% of the world’s population. But normal flu still kills a few hundred thousand people world wide each year. Everybody is susceptible to catching flu but those most at risk of severe compl icat i ons such as pneumonia are those over 65 years; being immunocompromised (ie low resistance to infections related to some long term medications and simply being ill for a long time); chronic lung, heart, liver, spleen or kidney disease; diabetes or pregnancy.
Hence these are the groups we target for the flu campaign, I’m afraid anyone else is not entitled to the vaccine although we will vaccinate people in January if supplies are still available. I was interested to read that the government’s public health doctors advise that GPs and other front line health professionals would be considered irresponsible not to vaccinate themselves because of the risks they pose to patients if they become infected.
However health professionals are not in our target group so theoretically they/we should not be vaccinated on the NHS. Once again it appears that one branch of the department of health is not talking to another.