There have been a number of exciting developments in recent weeks regarding Covid-19 vaccines. And now the UK’s medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has authorised the Pfizer-BioNTech, the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Moderna Covid-19 vaccines for use.
Further vaccines are likely to be considered for approval in the coming weeks. To enable this to happen, the Human Medicines Legislation has been amended to enable the temporary authorisation of Covid-19 vaccines once they meet a set of conditions to ensure product safety, quality and efficacy.
A national protocol is also being developed to enable those who are registered health and care professionals who do not normally vaccinate (this may include nursing associates in England) and people who are not registered health and care professionals (this may include student nurses, student midwives and student nursing associates) to safely administer a Covid-19 or flu vaccine.
Decisions about how any potential vaccine will be rolled out and who will be asked to support are being taken by the health and care services in each of the four nations of the UK. This may be slightly different in each nation.
Acting in line with the Code
All registered nurses, midwives and nursing associates (in England), including those on our temporary register, involved in the administration of any Covid-19 or flu vaccine will need to act in line with the requirements of the Code.
This means that they will need to have the right knowledge and skills to vaccinate. They must act within the law and in line with the best available evidence, as well as following the national protocol and local policies in the nation where they practise.
It is possible that some nations may want to train student nurses, student midwives and student nursing associates (in England) to administer Covid- 19 or flu vaccines. Those involved in the vaccination programme will be educated, trained and supervised to administer the vaccines in line with the national protocol and as part of their practice learning experience in line with our standards for education.
We recognise that like anyone else, those on our register have their own personal beliefs, including around any potential Covid-19 vaccine.
As the Code sets out, all registered nursing and midwifery professionals have a duty to act in a way that puts the interests of those using heath and care services first and prioritises their care and safety. It also makes clear that professionals have a responsibility to uphold the reputation of their profession, so that people receiving care, other health and care professionals and the wider public, can have confidence in them.
In-line with the Code, personal views should be exercised appropriately - in a way which upholds professionalism and doesn’t cause upset or distress to others.
- England: Coronavirus - Clinicians considering a return to the NHS
- Wales: COVID-19 vaccination information - Public Health Wales (nhs.wales)
- Scotland: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidance on offering support for vaccination and diagnostic testing
- PHE publishes COVID-19 vaccine guidance for health and social care workers - GOV.UK
- Priority groups for coronavirus vaccination: advice from the JCVI - GOV.UK
Answering your questions
Although there aren’t any mandatory vaccines in the UK, the Code and our standards make clear that professionals have a responsibility to maintain their own level of health. And that they should take all reasonable personal precautions to avoid potential health risks to colleagues and people receiving care.
With that and the potential risk to vulnerable people of inadvertently spreading Covid-19 in mind, we would expect the majority of professionals on our register to be vaccinated - where a vaccine has been approved and is available. We also recognise that there might be a good reason why vaccination is not appropriate in individual circumstances- people may need to take account of any underlying health conditions, and in some cases there may be other appropriate options for managing any risk that a professional’s health poses to those receiving care and their colleagues.
All nurses, midwives and nursing associates, whether they decide to be vaccinated or not, need to be confident that measures are in place where they work to manage any risk of transmission, and they need to take appropriate steps themselves to reduce risks and prioritise the safety of people in their care.
The Human Medicines Regulations have been amended to allow the temporary authorisation of an unlicensed medicine or vaccines in the response to a public health emergency.
A nurse or midwife who will be administering a Covid-19 vaccine authorised by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority, must do so in line with the laws, protocols and policies in the nation where they work.
The role of nursing associates in the Covid-19 and influenza vaccination programmes will be set out in the national protocol in England and local policies. Like nurses and midwives, nursing associates follow the Code and must only undertake roles where they are competent to do so.
Each of the four nations of the UK will determine whether students are able to be involved in the vaccination programme as part of their practice learning experience, in line with programme learning outcomes.
Students would need to receive the right education and training under the relevant national protocol and be supervised to administer either of these vaccines in line with our standards of student supervision and assessment.
The vaccination programme includes a variety of roles, some of which do not require you to be on our register. Please refer the relevant role description and act accordingly in regard to the registration requirements.
Please be aware that the national protocol may be rolled out differently across the four nations of the UK.
You can find out more about the various roles you could apply for here: