Nurse of the Year advocates the flu vaccine
This year’s flu vaccination programme is now under way, and has received the backing of Nurse of The Year Siobhan Rogan, who is highlighting the importance of the flu vaccine particularly for ‘at risk’ groups and healthcare workers.
Siobhan, who works in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, won the Nurse of The Year award for her leading role in establishing Northern Ireland's first community-based fully integrated child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) for young people with intellectual disability.
Siobhan explains: “As a nurse, I know what flu means. For healthy individuals, seasonal flu is usually a self-limiting illness, but for people who are ‘at risk’ it can be serious and can result in a stay in hospital, or even death. The virus spreads easily through the air when people cough and sneeze without covering their nose and mouth, infecting both adults and children alike. So everyone is at risk of catching it.”
The flu vaccine does not give you the flu. It is there to help protect the most vulnerable in our community, because if they get flu they are more likely to have severe illness and/or develop complications such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.
Siobhan continues: “I work with young people who have complex mental health and behavioural difficulties, but some also have physical health problems, putting them at increased risk from the flu. I will be encouraging them to take up the chance of getting the vaccine and reduce their risk of getting the flu.
“I would also encourage everyone else who is eligible, including healthcare workers, to get vaccinated. Those of us at the frontline of working with vulnerable people can help protect ourselves and those we care for by getting a quick jab once a year. It’s an easy step to take to help reduce the threat of flu to the health service and the people it serves. It’s free, takes a few seconds, and helps enable us to get on with supporting those who rely on us.”
’At risk’ groups include adults and children from six months up with a long-term illness such as diabetes, heart disease and asthma.
The vaccine changes each year to cover the strains which are likely to be prevalent over the course of the flu season, so it is important to get immunised annually.
Dr Jillian Johnston, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, explains the importance of the flu vaccine: “Everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated against flu should see it as a positive step in protecting their health and the health of others around them.
“The signs from Australia’s winter, which is drawing to an end, show that flu prevalence has been much higher than in previous years, and global circulation means we could see the same here, especially if flu vaccine uptake rates are not high enough.