It is that time of year when we start plugging your flu jabs. Usually I remind everyone just how bad the flu can be and rattle off figures about the Spanish flu which struck the world a century ago and killed far more people than the whole of the first world war and most of those who died were young. This is to try and persuade you that the flu can be a really serious infection.
I then go on to mention that if you’re in at-risk group (over 65 years or chronically ill) then you should get yourself jabbed. I usually have a rant at the boffins at this stage about who they choose to vaccinate – because the NHS has always historically targeted those people who are at most risk should they contract the flu. My feeling is that this is like closing the barn door after the proverbial has bolted.
What we really need to do is to prevent flu taking hold in the community in the first place and as such should target people who are most likely to pass on the disease should they get ill – in short rather than immunising the elderly we should be jabbing anyone working in big institutions such as schools and Universities. I’ve been less on my high horse since the government started targeting the really big bug factories – ie nurseries and infant schools – young children don’t have the same concept of personal space and spread the flu with gay abandon.
So this year my rant is about the government’s heavy-handed attempts to force all healthcare staff to get vaccinated. Years ago we encouraged our staff to get vaccinated and paid for their treatment – so on the surface this sounds like a great initiative – healthcare staff are likely to be exposed and the last thing we want is them going off sick in the middle of a flu epidemic.
Alas the degree of pressure being placed on staff is now bordering on the unethical. It also begs the question what is so special about the NHS that its staff gets preferential treatment – surely council workers and private employees are just as likely to contract the illness and infect others. I appreciate that health care workers have a greater contact with those who are ill but I’m not sure that reason by itself warrants such preferential treatment.
It seems to me that the time has arrived to simply vaccinate everybody.
Incidentally this year’s flu jabs come in 3 flavours – the youngest have to snort theirs, the over 65s have a live attenuated version which is a better way to get their immune system to react to the jab and everyone has the standard jab which this year covers 4 different flu strains.