The Metropolitan Police Service is considering arranging for a local nurse to administer the swine flu vaccination onsite to officers when it becomes available, to cause minimum disruption to police work.
It would be the first time the Met has organised for a mass immunisation within police premises in a bid to avoid heavy interruption to shifts when potentially thousands of officers would seek to receive the jab, according to HR director Martin Tiplady.
Ministers have already unveiled plans to vaccinate 11 million workers against the virus from mid-October, prioritising front-line health and social care workers and at-risk groups.
Tiplady told Personnel Today if the swine flu pandemic worsened, as predicted, front-line police officers were likely to be next in line.
“We would arrange for someone to come in to the Met to give out the jabs,” he said. “It would have to be entirely voluntary, but we’d rather have it onsite because of the sheer numbers of officers who would ask for time off to get this done.”
The Association of Chief Police Officers said it was down to individual forces to decide whether onsite vaccinations or trips to the doctor’s surgery were the best way to minimise the amount of time away from front-line duties.
The latest official figures revealed the number of H1N1 cases had fallen to 11,000 per week in England, but last week chief medical officer Liam Donaldson said swine flu was expected to surge this winter.
The Department of Health has not yet decided how the flu jabs will be administered, but did not rule out encouraging district nurses to visit large front-line employers to offer the vaccinations onsite.
A spokesman said: “Our plans are still being finalised. At present the swine flu jabs are very much GP-led. But we never rule anything out, particularly with the surge in swine flu expected in the autumn.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of employers have been seeking to pay for the swine flu jab to be available at work for healthy ‘non-priority’ employees.
Healthcare provider Blossoms Healthcare told Personnel Today that nearly 300 large corporates had enquired about Blossoms buying the drug direct from the manufacturers, bypassing the government, to come and administer the jab onsite.
But drug makers GlaxoSmithKline and Baxter have admitted that they have hit difficulties and cannot supply the demand. Just 300,000 doses will be available by the end of this month, and 54.6 million doses will have arrived by the end of the year.
Magnus Kauders, Blossoms’ commercial director, said: “We have been absolutely inundated with calls from employers that want to set up an in-house clinic for the jabs. It absolutely does make sense to do it like this rather than see staff take time off to go to the doctors individually.”
Viewpoints: Should employers administer the swine flu jab at work?
“We might consider doing the jab onsite, it depends where the pandemic breaks. But we have 24 sites across counties, so it won’t be that easy. We are still waiting for guidance on how [the vaccination] should be administered.”
Moira Brown, HR director, Care South
“I wouldn’t be offering the vaccine as in my view swine flu is like any other flu, and if people are off then business has to deal with it.”
Sean Wheeler, group director of people development, Malmaison
“Our business continuity team will meet in early September to consider whether to roll out an employee vaccination programme.”
Kate Holden, HR business partner, Molson Coors Brewing Company
“We would not intend to provide the flu vaccine to employees. This is based on current understanding that the vaccine will be available through the NHS.”
Linda Scott, HR director, British Transport Police