Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Health and Social Services
Earlier this year, the Welsh Government published its first annual “Seasonal Flu Plan”. Its aim is to minimise the impact of influenza on the population of Wales by:
• co-ordinating action at a national level and supporting work across all Health Boards,
• raising awareness of the risks posed by influenza,
• maximising the uptake of the vaccination in “at risk” groups” and
• in those who provide direct care for vulnerable people.
In line with the objectives of the Plan, I met recently with professional bodies and other relevant organisations involved in the delivery of the seasonal influenza campaign to ensure arrangements are in place to support delivery of the Welsh Government’s target uptake rates.
For the first time this season, we have enabled community pharmacies to participate in the campaign. Over 130 pharmacies across Wales will be offering free influenza vaccination to people in eligible groups. Areas with low take up are being targeted and the intention is to provide more opportunities for people who are at risk to access the vaccine conveniently.
A media plan has been put in place to raise awareness of the effects of influenza. I am pleased we have secured TV sponsorship of the ITV weather forecast and “Sgorio” on S4C for two months to accompany the start of the season. In addition, there is radio and community messaging, digital / web based activities and adverts on the bus network along with access to free leaflets and posters. Each Health Board area is also able claim up to £3,000 from the Welsh Government to support local publicity activities.
It is important health and social care employers recognise the importance of providing influenza vaccination to protect their own staff as well as their vulnerable clients. In response to requests from Health Boards, this year we are providing extra funding to enable more resources to be directed towards vaccination of health care workers. I expect Health Boards to use these funds effectively to produce a significant increase in uptake this season.
The Welsh Government has purchased a contingency stock of influenza vaccine. A proportion has already been released to GP surgeries in response to shortages arising from a vaccine manufacturer’s failure to fulfil its orders. This has enabled at risk patients in these surgeries to have the vaccine at the appropriate time as planned.
These measures demonstrate the Welsh Government’s commitment to increasing influenza vaccination uptake rates and protecting vulnerable people from the potentially life threatening effects of influenza.