Playing the long game
Patience is a virtue, they say. For many frontline care workers, it has been a necessity. Although coronavirus restrictions have greatly eased in care homes and many other settings, life is still not entirely back to normal. The heightened standards of infection prevention and control are here to stay, with or without a pandemic to concentrate minds.
Our exit from this public health crisis was always going to be a marathon rather than a sprint, even after the arrival of safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines. There remain hurdles to jump in the form of more resistant variants, the increasing ubiquity of long-covid and the inevitable changing of the seasons, foreshadowing the winter pressures we experience every year.
This winter will be very different to previous years, of course. As head of the newly formed UK Health Security Agency, Dr Jenny Harries explained in the media how this will be the first time winter flu and coronavirus will circulate together in the population at significant levels. The implications for our health and care system – and the people we care for and protect – are profound if we don’t take all the protective steps we can.
Which is why vaccination remains an essential component in our efforts to protect our communities. I am not simply speaking about COVID-19.
Those infected with both viruses are more than twice as likely to suffer serious illness and die as someone with COVID-19 alone. Such a stark assessment explains why more than 40 million people across the UK are being offered a free flu jab this year – and why millions of other eligible adults (including care staff) will be offered COVID-19 booster shots – in the biggest winter vaccination campaign this country has ever seen.
As frontline care workers, you already know COVID-19 vaccinations have been a literal lifeline for you, your colleagues, family and friends. Critically, they have helped limit the impact of staff absence due to illness, relieving workplace pressures and allowing care homes, clinics and day centres to continue to offer the highest, safest standards of care.
Winter flu has the potential to disrupt care provision again, so I urge anyone working in or with the care sector to book your flu jabs now and encourage your colleagues to do the same.
As with the coronavirus vaccination programme, information and reassurance will be vital to this campaign’s success. There are a wealth of free winter vaccination resources available for download. A new winter vaccines communications toolkit is also available, featuring case studies, expert blogs and a range of materials to promote flu and COVID-19 boosters among care sector colleagues.
We all want the best for our residents, colleagues, our families and the communities around us. Let’s give them all even greater peace of mind by getting vaccinated for flu and COVID-19 and make this the safest, healthiest winter we can.