HSE staff partner with UNICEF to help fight measles

HSE staff partner with UNICEF to help fight measles


Photo: Brian Arthur

UL Hospitals Group and HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare have launched their 2020-2021 Staff Flu Vaccination Campaign, highlighting the unprecedented importance of vaccination against flu in the era of COVID-19, and helping UNICEF to fight measles in the developing world.

UNICEF ambassador Donncha O’Callaghan, famous throughout the Mid-West for his feats on the pitch with Munster Rugby, came to Limerick last week to help launch the staff flu vaccine campaign, which will also help protect tens of thousands of vulnerable children in the developing world from the threat of measles.

The ‘Get a Vaccine – Give a Vaccine’ initiative means that for every flu vaccination given to healthcare staff in the Mid-West, UL Hospitals Group and HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare are giving the cost of 10 measles vaccines to UNICEF for vulnerable children in the developing world. Donncha and UNICEF are urging healthcare workers and staff to answer this call to protect themselves and others, at home and in the developing world.

According to December 2019 data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 140,000 people worldwide died from measles in 2018. Last year alone, 5.2m children under the age of 5 years, and 1m adolescents died of preventable causes.

Calling for the maximum number of healthcare staff in the Mid-West to avail of the free staff flu vaccination, Donncha said: “I’m asking all our fantastic healthcare workers in UL Hospitals Group and HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare to get a vaccine to give a vaccine. We need you to lead the way in this. Not only are you protecting yourself – you are also protecting others.”

While the battle against COVID-19 continues, it is important to remember that flu is a very serious illness, and that up to 500 people die from the virus in Ireland every year. Healthcare workers are at increased risk of infection from flu. Almost 20% of healthcare workers in this country are infected every year. Over the past 60 years, the flu vaccine has proven a safe and effective protection from flu for millions of people.

As we face into the Winter against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, vaccination of healthcare staff against flu – which has similar symptoms to COVID-19 and is transmitted in the same way – has assumed unprecedented importance.

Healthcare workers can play a leading role in ensuring that they and their patients, families and communities are protected from influenza while continuing to hold firm to recommended public health guidance on social distancing, hand-washing and respiratory etiquette that minimises the risk of contracting COVID-19.

And by assisting UNICEF’s ‘Get a Vaccine – Give a Vaccine’ initiative, the support of healthcare staff for the flu vaccine in the Mid-West is of enormous significance to the global family at a time when COVID-19 threatens the delivery of vaccinations for millions of children worldwide.

Anne Ryan, Head of Service, Health & Wellbeing, HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare said: “HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare are delighted to be working collaboratively with UL Hospitals and UNICEF for our staff influenza campaign.”

“This year for every staff member who gets the flu vaccine, UL Hospitals Group and HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare will fund 10 measles vaccinations for children in the developing world. I am encouraging all Healthcare staff to get the flu vaccine to protect themselves, the people they care for in their jobs and their families. It is particularly important to get the flu vaccine as we are all working in a Covid-19 backdrop and it will minimise the risk of getting both viruses,” she said.

Prof Brian Lenehan, Chief Clinical Director, UL Hospitals Group said the similarities in symptoms between seasonal influenza and COVID-19 made it essential for healthcare workers in hospitals to get the flu vaccine and help minimise the risk of contracting COVID-19 and flu at the same time.

“The flu vaccine does not offer any protection against COVID-19. However, by taking the vaccine, and continuing to practice the public health guidelines around social distancing, hand hygiene, and wearing face coverings, it will help to minimise the threat from both infections, and protect the resources of our hospitals and public health system for those who need them most,” Prof Lenehan said.

Dr Anne Hogan, Principal Medical Officer, HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare, highlights the importance of Healthcare workers getting the flu vaccine.

“Healthcare Workers are at increased risk of getting flu, with 1 in 5 healthcare workers infected with flu every year. Some people have mild symptoms or no symptoms, but can still pass the flu to others. Even very healthy people can become seriously ill with flu. Flu Vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect yourself, your loved ones, your colleagues and your patients.”

UNICEF Ambassador Donncha O’Callaghan said he was thrilled to support the joint campaign by UL Hospitals Group and HSE Midwest Community Healthcare: “Healthcare workers have given us so much, and it’s crucially important we get them the protection they need this winter. We feel sure they will once again answer the call when we give them yet another opportunity to protect the vulnerable in their own communities, and also in the developing world. Vaccines are helping to end preventable child deaths all over the world. We’re saying to healthcare staff – Get a vaccine, give a vaccine. We’re all in this together.”