Keeping lungs healthy: flu vaccinations

Flu is a potentially fatal lung disease. People with chronic lung diseases are significantly more likely to get flu and are more likely to need to be in hospital if infected. 

We want to see more people who are at risk of getting or passing on the flu, including those with lung disease, having flu vaccinations. We think this should also include health and social care staff who have contact with patients.

We know that vaccinations in people living with lung disease can reduce hospital admissions by up to 52% and reduce mortality by 70%. But uptake of the vaccine in people with chronic respiratory conditions is too low. This leaves many people with lung disease at risk of complications associated with the flu. 

About one in 10 cases of flu caught in hospital is fatal. It’s critical that health care professionals are protected from flu, so they don’t run the risk of passing flu to patients. We support steps by NHS England, alongside Public Health England, the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS Improvement, to increase flu vaccination uptake by health care professionals.

A personal view: flu vaccination

Felicity Payne, from Eastbourne, believes her mother died as a consequence of flu that was passed on by one of her carers. “My mother died in March 2014 after catching flu from one of her carers or another health professional,” says Felicity. “She was bed-bound and no one else had visited her.”

The flu jab should be publicised and made more widely available to prevent infections, particularly for those caring for the elderly, Felicity says. “People like my mother, with weakened immune systems, rely on carers coming in to help and should not be exposed to infection.”

Felicity, 62, was offered a flu jab for the first time four years ago when she went to a chemist after suffering several nasty chest infections. Felicity believes that the first infection was also probably caused through contact with one of her mother’s paid carers.

Felicity has since been diagnosed with COPD and feels that her poor lung health can be traced back to those earlier infections because until then she had enjoyed very good health. Felicity quit her job as a teacher two years ago because of her health and the risk of exposure to infections.

Felicity says: “I have only had one bad chest infection since I have been having the flu jab. I will continue to have it because it gives me the best chance of not catching flu.”

Measures of success

Increase in the take up rate of the flu vaccine amongst health and social care staff from 68.7% to 100%.

Increase in the take-up rate of the flu vaccine amongst people with chronic respiratory disease from 50.8% to 75%.

Data need: Public Health England to start collecting data on flu vaccine take-up among social care staff and to start collecting separate data for flu vaccine take-up among people with asthma, COPD and other chronic respiratory diseases.