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DH – Health Protection week of action- 26th Feb- Immunisations

26th February 2014

Today, as part of the Department of Health and Public Health England’s week of action, Protecting Health: Nursing and Midwifery Successes and Challenges, they are focusing on immunisation.  This blog looks at the issues around child and young people immunisation and is by Pauline Watts, Professional Officer for Health Visiting at Department of Health and Alison Burton, Maternity and Early Years Lead at Public Health England.

Nurses and midwives play a vital role in improving and protecting people’s heath. Health protection is a fundamental principle underpinning all nursing and midwifery practice. Here are some examples:

Protecting vulnerable patients and individuals in hospitals and the community from exposure to health care associated infections:
Nurses and midwives play a leading role in their settings in ensuring that standards for hygiene and preventing cross infection are implemented and maintained through:

• Hand care decontamination
• Use of aseptic techniques and
• Care of urinary catheters and intravenous cannulas
• Educating patients and their families the importance of good hand washing techniques
• Educating patients and their families on the importance of taking prescribed such as antibiotics correctly and concerns about increasing antimicrobial resistance

Immunisation and vaccination:
Nurses and midwives are also key in supporting on-going work with immunisations and vaccinations. The introduction of effective immunisation and vaccination programmes over the last sixty years means the incidence of many serious communicable diseases has fallen and new vaccinations are being developed and made available.

Last year NHS England introduced new vaccines for rotavirus, shingles and childhood flu and added an additional meningitis C vaccine for teenagers into the childhood immunisation schedule. Nurses and midwives have a significant role in promoting uptake by providing expertise and information about the vaccines and setting up local services and clinics to administer the vaccines.

The outbreak of measles in Wales last year showed how important it is to keep giving clear messages on the importance of vaccination and herd immunity in protecting health to prevent cases of these illnesses from reoccurring. During those weeks and months local nurses in schools, clinics and primary care rose to the challenge to enable many children to get an MMR jab in a short space of time and helped to halt the spread of the outbreak.

This winter midwives up and down the country have been encouraging pregnant women to have a flu jab and a whooping cough booster to protect themselves and their unborn baby.
As well as rolling out new vaccines and responding to outbreaks, every day nurses and midwives are making sure that some of the most vulnerable and at risk people in society are getting the protection they need from serious infectious illness, including babies and young children, older people, prisoners and homeless people through routine immunisation programmers and targeted programmes such as TB.

Protecting ourselves:
What more can we all do? Perhaps this week may help us all focus on that question. The nature of our workplaces exposes us to particular risk to our own health and we should do all we can to protect ourselves and our patients by being responsible for our own health.

What you can do? Ask yourself the following questions:

• Have I had all my immunisations, have I had 2 doses of MMR?
• Am I protected against Hepatitis B?
• Do I need a BCG?
• Did I have my flu jab this winter?

If you are not sure you can confidently answer yes to all these questions, you can get advice from your GP, practice nurse or occupational health nurse. Even if you think your own role does not require you to have these vaccinations, it is wise to check.

Be proud and shout about what you do every day, but also stop and think what more you could do, perhaps a personal commitment through an NHS Change Day pledge. You can either sign up to our campaign pledge via Protecting Health Campaign Pledge or make your own personal pledge

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Alison Burton / Pauline Watts

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