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Unvaccinated health staff 'selfish'

The Government's top health adviser has branded NHS workers who are not vaccinated against flu "selfish".

Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer, said doctors and nurses had a responsibility to their patients to get a flu jab.

According to figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) 602 people in the UK died with a confirmed flu infection during the 2010/11 season.

Dame Sally told The Times: "Why we want frontline workers to be vaccinated is to protect them so that they can continue to do their service, (and) so they don't infect patients who by definition are already vulnerable.

"It is very selfish not to be vaccinated. I wouldn't want to be responsible for infecting my patients."

Addressing health workers, she added: "You owe a duty to your patients. I don't see it as responsible behaviour if you haven't been vaccinated."

More people in the UK died after contracting swine flu last winter than during the previous year's pandemic, the HPA figures said. The influenza A H1N1 swine flu virus claimed more than 90% of flu deaths during last season - 535 out of 582. Influenza B was associated with 40 deaths.

The figures for last winter compare to 474 deaths reported between June 2009 and April last year as being associated with the H1N1 swine flu.

Dame Sally, who took on her current role in March after a year as interim Chief Medical Officer, says she wants to urge more people to have flu jabs:

"This year we are going to try a much bigger communication campaign, but if that doesn't work and we get another bad flu season I think we are going to have to debate all sorts of other ways of trying to protect the patients," she said.

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