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Suspect information

I refer to your article “Care home staff urged to get flu jab” (Oct 30). In it, Dr Julia Yates of Public Health England says that many care home residents who become ill with flu might need to be admitted to hospital at a time of year when services are already under pressure. It seems perfectly logical, therefore, to assume that staff who get themselves vaccinated not only help themselves but also help to protect these vulnerable residents.

Unfortunately, this is not supported by any credible evidence. A study published in the highly-regarded Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews concludes “Vaccinating healthcare workers who work with those aged 60 or over in long-term care showed no effect on influenza or its complications, hospitalisation or death in those residents”.

Another, peer-reviewed, piece of research published by the International Journal of Family Medicine is quite firm in its statement “The studies aiming to prove the widespread belief that staff vaccination has a substantial effect on patient morbidity and mortality are heavily flawed. No reliable evidence shows that healthcare workers’ vaccination has noteworthy advantage to their patients.”

In your article Dr Yates quotes percentages of flu incidence in care homes. It would be more informative, I feel, if she had revealed how many patients who became ill had already been given the jab. The Health Department’s own figures show that the effectiveness of the annual flu vaccination is poor - last year only 10% in people over 65.

Overall, the suggestion that elderly residents will be protected to any significant degree if they, and/or their care workers, have the jab, is highly suspect. Staff should be free to choose for themselves whether or not to have it, without coercion from Public Health England or anywhere else.

Basil Jones, Grosvenor Road, Old Town, Swindon

Winter on wheels

Motorbike riding in winter? Really? I’m not stopping that’s for sure. Apart from when there’s ice, snow or some other extreme weather, there will be days I decide not to ride and take the car instead. However, here are some of my tips for riding this cold season.

Weather – biggest factor in deciding to ride or not. The cold will get to you so wear thin layers and wrap up warm. Thermal vests and leggings do not need to cost a packet and are available from many supermarket and department stores.

Traffic – it gets dark earlier; fluorescent and high viz jackets are essential. Oncoming lights will seem brighter and your speed may drop when riding at night; don’t forget to only ride as fast as you can see – riders will know what I mean! Roads will have more pot holes at this time of year as water freezes and expands to create those cracks.

Machine – important to check tyres have good tread depth. Change them if needed as the deeper the tread the more surface water will be sloshed away giving greater grip. Check oil often. Carry spare bulbs. Before each journey, check you have enough petrol. If you can, have a warning triangle in your top box or under your seat.

Try to relax and enjoy the ride; its refreshing at -3.5degC! If in doubt, then don’t ride.

Peter Genet, RoSPA(Dip), North Wall, Cricklade

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