A small army of Waikato DHB staff are ‘armed’ and ready to fight this year’s flu strain.
The staff, more than 30 in number and dubbed ‘ward influenza vaccination champions’, have made themselves freely available to immunise other staff at short notice.
Waikato DHB health and safety advisor Karren Moss said the DHB introduced the volunteer role for the first time last year, and the results were outstanding.
“In 2013 we had 18 volunteers spanning 15 Waikato DHB departments and immunised a record 4141 staff against the flu,” she said.
“This year, the interest has climbed. With more than 30 volunteers spanning 26 Waikato DHB departments, we have high hopes of protecting even more people than we did last year against this nasty virus.”
The role was put in place to help get more staff vaccinated quickly. It was based on the principle that when staff are vaccinated, there is reduced risk of patients contracting influenza when the virus hits.
“Healthcare workers are more exposed to the flu than the general population, and are therefore at higher risk of becoming infected. This also means that vulnerable patients are at risk of becoming infected from non-immunised healthcare workers,” Ms Moss said.
Waikato DHB immunisation coordinator Kim Hunter is strongly encouraging the Waikato community to follow suit and get their flu vaccine as soon as possible.
“Vaccine has just arrived in GP surgeries across the country and now is the best time to be vaccinated as it can take up to two weeks from vaccination to develop immunity.
“Influenza is a serious illness with severe effects including hospitalisation, complications and even death.
“The vaccine is not live and it is not possible to catch influenza from the vaccine. I encourage everyone to have their vaccine early in the season, before the viruses are circulating,” Mrs Hunter said.
Influenza immunisation is free from a GP or nurse for New Zealanders at high risk of complications – pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, and for people of any age with long-term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease (including asthma), kidney disease and most cancers.
The vaccine is generally well tolerated, and while some people may experience localised pain or redness, most reactions are mild.
The free influenza vaccination season will end on July 31, 2014.
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