The government should consider giving social care workers free flu vaccinations on the NHS to avoid significant risks to older people and public health from current low rates of immunisation.
That was the message from a report today from the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK) on improving access to vaccination among older people.
The government recommends that all frontline health and social care workers receive the flu vaccine, but last year less than half (45.6%) did so, a rate described as “disappointingly low” by health officials.
It is the responsibility of employers to arrange for their staff to be vaccinated. However, while NHS staff can access free vaccinations through the health service, this is generally not open to social care staff in the independent sector, who must rely on their employers’ occupational health staff.
The ILC-UK said that the “automatic lack of access to free NHS immunisation against seasonal flu” may create barriers to vaccination for social care staff, particularly in small providers that had no occupational health department. It said with social care providers under significant cost pressures increasing vaccination rates this winter was unlikely to be a priority for employers.
The report says the current situation “could pose a significant risk to public health” and to vulnerable people, and that the government should consider giving social care staff free access to immunisation against flu on the NHS.