This year it is more important than ever before to have effective plans in place for the 2020/21 flu season to protect those at risk, prevent ill-health and minimise further impact on the NHS and social care.
The prospect of a flu season during the coronavirus pandemic is very alarming to all. Respiratory infections, including influenza increase dramatically in winter and during the current pandemic this could be dangerous.
Stephanie Zakrzewski, Nursing and Quality Manager at the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) said:
“Teams have been working very hard on the NHS Pennine Lancashire Flu plan since late May, as we believe the flu vaccine is ‘more important than ever’ this year. According to Public Health England (PHE), although the vaccine cannot protect against the Coronavirus, it will reduce the strain on the NHS, during the winter months; especially if there is another spike on coronavirus cases. Patients who are in the higher risk categories for influenza are also the highest risk groups for COVID-19.
“There are many issues to consider such as:
- Impact of COVID-19 on Health & Social Care Services
- Suitable venues, Available staffing
- Additional demand for vaccines
- Vaccine availability
- Capacity of community teams
- PPE/Infection control procedures/Social distancing implications
- School based delivery due to closures
- Poor uptake of 2-3 year olds (based on last years findings)
- Increase in the programme: 50-64 year olds /household members of NHS shielded patients”
“It is imperative that we all work together in ensuring that every single individual who is eligible for a flu vaccination is given one – the pressures that a flu outbreak will have on the already stretched healthcare & social care system will really cause problems.
“We know that the flu vaccination programme is one of the most effective, preventative vaccinations programmes in the world and therefore vitally important as we head in to the winter months. The Pennine Lancashire Flu plan has brought together the views and feedback from Primary Care, Regulated Care, Community Care, Community Pharmacists, Local authorities, Secondary Care and is formulated to address the challenges posed to deliver an effective, robust plan for the population of Pennine Lancs.”
Those eligible for the flu vaccination are:
- All children aged two to eleven (but not twelve years or older) on 31 August 2020
- People aged 65 years or over (including those becoming age 65 years by 31 March 2021)
- Those aged from six months to less than 65 years of age, in a clinical risk group such as those with:
- chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as severe asthma,
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis
- chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- chronic kidney disease at stage three, four or five
- chronic liver disease
- chronic neurological disease, such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease
- learning disability
- diabetes o splenic dysfunction or asplenia
- a weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment)
- morbidly obese (defined as BMI of 40 and above)
- All pregnant women (including those women who become pregnant during the flu season)
- Household contacts of those on the NHS Shielded Patient List, or of immunocompromised individuals, specifically individuals who expect to share living accommodation with a shielded patient on most days over the winter and therefore for whom continuing close contact is unavoidable
- People living in long-stay residential care homes or other long-stay care facilities where rapid spread is likely to follow introduction of infection and cause high morbidity and mortality. This does not include, for instance, prisons, young offender institutions, university halls of residence, or boarding schools (except where children are of primary school age or secondary school Year 7).
- Those who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or who are the main carer of an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill
- Health and social care staff, employed by a registered residential care/nursing home or registered domiciliary care provider, who are directly involved in the care of vulnerable patients/clients who are at increased risk from exposure to influenza.
- Health and care staff, employed by a voluntary managed hospice provider, who are directly involved in the care of vulnerable patients/clients who are at increased risk from exposure to influenza.
- Health and social care workers employed through Direct Payments (personal budgets) and/or Personal Health Budgets, such as Personal Assistants, to deliver domiciliary care to patients and service users
Dr David White, Clinical Lead for Urgent Care at the CCGs added:
“It is vital that every contact counts and that all eligible patients are aware of the importance of having a flu vaccination and know where to get it be that GP surgery flu clinic, a local pharmacy, or a visiting district nurse. In particular it is vitally important that children are vaccinated, 2 – 4 years olds need to attend their GP practice whilst school aged children will be vaccinated in school. Pregnant women can attend their GP flu clinic or may be offered a flu vaccination at their ante-natal appointment. We need to get the eligible population in the habit of asking about their flu vaccination and where and when they can receive it. GP surgeries are already planning their flu clinics so we are encouraging patients to phone up and book an appointment.
“There are plans to extend to programme to 50 – 64 years olds but this is not finalised and is expected to be offered towards to end of the year – we will release more information when we have it.”