Close up of a needle before giving a vaccine jab

Covid-19 vaccine approval: what does it mean for NHS staff?

Priority groups are set to benefit first from the newly-approved Covid-19 vaccine, including frontline NHS staff, but what does that truly mean? Are there likely to be any issues around vaccine rollout? And is it mandatory for the likes of nursing staff?

To answer these common questions, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has released a new resource breaking down the organisation’s expectations for vaccination rollout and how it will impact nursing staff in particular.

These expectations include who should administer the vaccine, which groups be prioritised and whether nursing staff should have the Covid-19 vaccine themselves.

For the RCN, it is essential that they are involved in the planning of the Covid-19 vaccination rollout, as nursing staff play a crucial role in all vaccination programmes.

Millions of vaccines are expected to be administer and as such RCN expect there is a possibility that nursing support workers, nursing associates and student nurse members may be called upon to assist in the vaccination rollout.

All nursing staff administering the vaccine would still need to be appropriately trained and supervised.

The RCN also welcomed nursing staff’s inclusion in the Government’s first priority group for receiving the vaccine, due to their increased risk of exposure to Covid-19.

However, they also reiterated a firm belief that while they would encourage members to have the vaccine, just as they do with the influenza vaccine, they did not support making the Covid-19 vaccine mandatory.

Health and care staff should also be provided easy access to the vaccine during the working day and be encouraged to receive it, with any staff concerns thoroughly explored, they recommended.

Helen Donovan, RCN Professional Lead for Public Health, said: “Vaccines have proved themselves to be among the most effective public health measures available for controlling diseases. Vaccinating those who need it safely and as quickly as possible will be challenging. It is clear that it will need input from across the system and from various health care practitioners to ensure safe and timely programme delivery.

“As nurses, we are at the forefront of vaccine delivery and we know we are trusted by the public. It is vital that the health care workforce is equipped to build public confidence. Nursing staff will be fundamental to the administration and delivery of this vaccine, as they are with all vaccines. They are highly skilled and have the knowledge needed to support the Covid-19 immunisation programme.”

RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair added: “The approval of the first Covid-19 vaccine will come as a relief to many people in the UK. Nursing staff, who have huge experience in delivering vaccination programmes, will be asked to play a key role in the vaccine rollout.

“They already administer the majority of vaccines and will be fundamental in the safe and effective delivery of Covid-19 vaccines, including the training and supervision of support staff. This will be a huge logistical operation and will require the services of those from across health services and beyond to make it work.

“As the plans for the roll-out are developed, nursing staff will continue to work with colleagues to ensure it can be safely delivered. It is essential these plans include details on maintaining day-to-day heath and care services for all those that need them."

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