Nurse confidence in swine flu vaccine falling

Nurses’ confidence in the safety of swine flu vaccination has fallen over the last two months, Nursing Times’ latest survey suggests.

With the first doses of vaccine expected to arrive at trusts in the next week or two, just under half of frontline nurses say they do not intend to have the jab, according to a snapshot survey of nearly 1,700 readers.

The results suggest fewer nurses are likely to get vaccinated now than in August, when Nursing Times asked readers the same questions about immunisation against swine flu.

In August, 31 per cent of respondents said they would not get vaccinated while 35 per cent said they would. However, in the latest online survey, carried out last week, the percentage of nurses saying they will not get vaccinated has increased to 47 per cent. Those saying they will has fallen to 23 per cent

The main reason nurses cited for not having the vaccine was concern over its safety – the percentage of nurses saying this is the main reason they do not intend to get immunised has increased from 60 per cent in August to 78 per cent in now.

A sizeable minority – 25 per cent – said they do not consider the risks to their health to be great enough. The comments suggest many nurses hold both views – believing that the condition is not serious enough to warrant trying a relatively new vaccine.

Both vaccines ordered by the Department of Health have now been licensed, having undergone trials. But many nurses responding to the survey raised concerns that the approval process had been rushed.

One respondent said: “I don’t believe that it has been tested properly and there is not enough information regarding side effects. It could come back and haunt us in years to come.”

“I am not confident that it has been sufficiently tested. I would rather take the risk of getting the flu,” another said.

Other common reasons cited by nurses for remaining unvaccinated were that the infection was mild enough for them not to bother, or that they had previously experienced flu-like illness after receiving the seasonal flu vaccine.

One respondent said: “I have worked on a swine flu isolation ward and have not become ill. I feel good barrier nursing with the correct masks has allowed me to build up my own resistance.”

Both the RCN and Unison have publically encouraged NHS staff to get vaccinated. Last month Unison head of nursing Gail Adam said: “We are strongly recommending that all health workers have the swine flu vaccination.”

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