As health professionals gather in the European Parliament to mark EU Flu Day (11 October), the European Specialist Nurses Organisation (ESNO) says its members are playing a ‘pivotal role’ in boosting flu vaccination rates.
Ber Oomen, Executive Director of ESNO, believes nurses are sometimes unfairly viewed as reluctant champions of vaccination. The commitment of doctors and pharmacists, meanwhile, is less likely to be questioned ‒ although a degree of vaccine hesitancy has been reported in all professions.
Nurses work directly with people in risk groups, including older people and those with chronic conditions.
‘It’s disheartening that, at times, nurses are unfairly tagged as non-cooperative when it comes to vaccination uptake,’ says Oomen. ‘It’s high time we break free from this negative framing because it simply doesn’t reflect reality. Nurses are not only willing but eager to be a part of the entire infection prevention puzzle.’
Just over half of the respondents to an ESNO survey had their flu vaccine in 2019.
To support nurses in engaging with the public, and with vulnerable patients in particular, ESNO has developed a four-part Information and Communication Guide on microbes ‒ an in-depth educational tool freely available online. A module on vaccines, now available in English and Dutch, covers everything from how vaccines work and how they are administered to addressing hesitancy and answering questions on specific vaccines.
‘Many nurses are highly educated, with bachelor’s degrees and beyond, which equips them with a deep understanding of healthcare dynamics and the significance of vaccination,’ Oomen says. ‘They see first hand the impact of vaccination, and this knowledge drives their commitment to advocating for it.’
Trust in health professionals, including specialist nurses, is consistently high among the public.
Influenza is associated with the deaths of an estimated 70,000 Europeans every year. The disease is also responsible for significant illness and economic losses. Flu vaccination rates among high-risk groups in most European countries continue to fall short of the 75% target. In some EU Member States, flu vaccine uptake is as low as 10%.
On 11 October, the Steering Group on Influenza Vaccination, a multi-stakeholder network of health professionals, industry and civil society groups, will take part in an event in the European Parliament to mark EU Flu Day. Hungarian MEP István Ujhelyi will host the event which is expected to publish a set of policy recommendations on how health professionals can be supported in their efforts to protect public health.
‘As we approach EU Flu Day, we must stand together and continue to advocate for vaccination and the role of all professionals in this vital work,’ Oomen said.