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Vaccinations: what you need to know

With several vaccines now approved for use in the UK, a mass vaccination programme is underway across the four countries of the UK.

Registrants are playing a key role in the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccines and the HCPC has worked with Government to ensure that our registrants be considered in any plans. However, it is important that registrants involved in this work receive the advice and support they need to support the delivery of vaccinations safely and effectively.

This page provides advice for registrants on our expectations, how they can support vaccinations, what we currently know about the COVID-19 vaccines and where to get further guidance.

This guidance is likely to evolve rapidly. Please keep referring back to this and our other COVID-19 advice pages for the latest information.

Vaccine approval

  • Before any vaccine can be administered, it must first be approved for use in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The MHRA is the independent licensing and regulatory body for the supply and use of medicines and medical devices.

    The MHRA states that a vaccine will only be approved for supply in the UK if the expected standards of safety, quality and efficacy are met.

  • All vaccines go through robust clinical trials, safety checks and quality controls. All vaccines are tested through three phases of clinical trials to ensure they meet strict standards.

    Phase one trials are to test initial safety, phase two is to test the immune response (production of antibodies) to different doses; and phase three is to test very large numbers of human volunteers for safety and effectiveness in preventing disease.

    There are extensive checks and balances required by law at every stage of the development of a vaccine.

    Independent regulators ensure that all the necessary safety checks are carried out. These decisions will be based on the evidence of vaccine trials involving very large numbers of people.
    As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products. There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process.

    The UK has some of the highest safety standards in the world and the MHRA is globally recognised for requiring the highest standards for quality, safety and medicines regulation.

    The NIHR (National Institute of Health Research) and UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) have invested heavily in the Research & Development of a COVID-19 vaccine; the NIHR has provided priority support through its Clinical Research Network to recruit to and facilitate the studies at pace.

Supporting the roll out of a vaccine

  • Following regulatory approval by the MHRA of the Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, the NHS begun delivering their COVID-19 vaccination programme.

    With numerous other potential vaccines to come, all plans for the roll out of the vaccine will need to remain flexible. Extensive preparations will ensure people across the country can access a vaccine, regardless of where they live, once it has undergone strict clinical trials and approved for use by the MHRA.

    The HCPC fed into the Government’s plans, through its public consultation on COVID-19 vaccines.

    Government has shared its UK COVID-19 vaccines delivery plan for all three vaccines, which provides detail about the plans for supply, prioritisation/dosage schedule and places of vaccine delivery.

    In relation to all COVID-19 vaccines being used in the UK, a 2-dose schedule is advised. To ensure high-level uptake, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have advised to prioritise the delivery of the first dose to as many eligible individuals as soon as possible.

    This means that the second dose of the vaccine may be given between up to 12 weeks following the first dose.

  • The Departments of Health and Social Care, and other agencies including public Health England and Health Protection Scotland are regularly updating their guidance and information for health and care professionals.

    Please remember to check regularly for any new statements issued, as well as being aware of guidance from your employer.

    The Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England

    Public Health England (PHE) have developed a suite of guidance aimed at supporting health and care professionals with the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccinations.

    In particular, PHE have issued new guidance in their 'Immunisation against infectious disease' handbook, otherwise known as 'the Green Book', which provides further detail about the vaccines, the dosage and schedule across the UK and recommendations for the use of the vaccine.

    PHE’s COVID-19 vaccination information for health and care practitioners also includes detailed information about the background of the program, vaccine recommendations and eligibility, and vaccine administration issues.

    There is also PHE guidance for health and care professionals about receiving the vaccines

    The Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health Wales

    Further information about the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Wales can be found on Public Health Wales’ (PHW) website

    PHW have also developed a suite of resources specially for health and care professionals.

    Health Protection Scotland

    The latest information and resources by Health Protection Scotland can be found on our website

    Department of Health (Northern Ireland) and the Public Health Agency

    Further information about Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme, as well as detailed guidance for health and care workers can be found on the Public Health Agency website

  • Vaccines are prescription-only medicines, so there are certain legal controls on who can and cannot prescribe, supply and administer these.

    There are several ways the vaccine is being administered, and different professions can administer in different ways. If you want to administer the vaccine, it is important you check how the vaccine is being administered in your local area and your own profession’s rights.

    The most common ways vaccines are administered is via Patient Group Directions (PGDs). This is an instruction from a prescriber to a named individual to give a certain medicine to a group of people. The following professions on our Register can currently administer via PGDs:

    • Chiropodists / podiatrists
    • Dietitians
    • Occupational therapists
    • Orthoptists
    • Paramedics
    • Physiotherapists
    • Prosthetist / orthotists
    • Radiographers (Diagnostic and Therapeutic)
    • Speech and Language Therapists

    Vaccines are also administered via Occupational Health Schemes. These are typically used to vaccinate employees at their place of work. Exemptions to the normal restrictions that apply mean certain professions can administer a vaccine much like a PGD - in accordance with the written and signed instructions of a doctor. The law has recently changed to allow more professions to administer via Occupational Health Schemes. On our Register, these are:

    • Paramedics
    • Physiotherapists
    • Operating Department Practitioners

    PHE have published the National Protocol for the administration and delivery of the Pfizer ,Oxford/Astra Zeneca and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. These protocols allow for non-registered health professionals to administer the vaccine under the supervision of an experienced registered health professional. The protocol extends the rights of HCPC registrants to administer the vaccine even if they are not legally allowed to administer other prescription-only medicines under a PGD.

    A copy of the protocols can be accessed here:



    Oxford/Astra Zeneca




    Oxford/Astra Zeneca



    Oxford/Astra Zeneca



  • The national protocols for England, Wales and Scotland break the process of delivering the vaccine into stages.

    Stage Description of tasks Registrants included
    England and Wales only
    Stage 1

    Assessment of the individual presenting for vaccination

    Provide information and obtain informed consent

    Provide advice to the individual



    Occupational therapists

    Operating department practitioners






    Speech and language therapists

    Stage 2 Vaccine Preparation All registrants eligible, provided that they are supervised by a Doctor, Nurse or Pharmacist
    Stage 3 Vaccine Administration All registrants eligible
    Stage 4 Record Keeping All registrants eligible
    Wales only
    Stage 5 Post-immunisation observation All registrants eligible
    Scotland Only


    Description of tasks

    All registrants eligible

    Stage 1

    a. Assessment of the individual presenting for vaccination

    b. Provide information and obtain informed consent

    c. Provide advice to the individua

    Registered Healthcare Professionals Only

    Stage 2 • Vaccine Preparation Registered Healthcare Professionals, nonregistered professionals or nonregistered Armed Forces staff
    Stage 3 • Vaccine Administration
    Stage 4 • Record Keeping

    Under the protocol, registrants in England and Wales with the ability to administer under a PGD or an Occupational Health Scheme can undertake tasks in Stage 1 – assessment of service users, obtaining informed consent and otherwise giving advice to the service user.  Stage 2, preparation of the vaccine, may be carried out by all registrants provided that they are appropriately trained and competent, and are under the supervision of a Doctor, Nurse or Pharmacist. The administration of the vaccine is covered in Stage 3 which includes all HCPC registrants, as does Stage 4 relating to record keeping.

    In Scotland, all registrants are eligible to undertake any stage of the process.

    For further information and clarity about the process established under the National Protocol, you should take a look at NHSE’s guidance on accountability and delegation. 

    No matter which stage of the process you are involved in or which legal mechanism (PGD, OHS or the protocol) you work under, you must only work within your scope of practice – see our information on this below.



  • National protocols have the power to grant non-registered professionals or students the ability to administer the vaccine.

    Each of the UK four nations will determine whether or not students can be involved with the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine.

  • First things first, it is important you check you are legally entitled to administer the vaccine before undertaking this work. This will depend on what mechanism your employer is using to administer the vaccine. For example, are they using PGDs, occupational health schemes or the national protocol to administer the vaccine? Different professions can use these, so it’s important to check what route your employer is using and if you can use this. See our response to the question above or check out our medical entitlements page to understand your profession’s rights in law.

    The next check is to see if this is within your scope of practice. Even if you are legally able to administer a vaccine, this doesn’t guarantee it is within your scope of practice. Any registrant administering a vaccine must ensure they have the skills, knowledge and experience to do this safely and effectively.

    This is especially important with a new vaccine. You will need to understand how the vaccine works, likely side effects and the impact it has on certain vulnerabilities, so you can correctly advise your patients. Patients will need to give informed consent to their vaccination and may have questions about this. Registrants will therefore need to get further training and support from their employer, in order to safely administer a COVID-19 vaccine.

    You will also need to ensure that your professional indemnity arrangement covers you to administer vaccines. Most indemnity arrangements are provided by employers, so speak to them in the first instance.

  • The most common ways that vaccines are rolled out, PGDs, must be authorised by a health authority, special health authority, NHS Trust/Foundation Trust or a primary care trust. Once the PGD is authorised, it is then the responsibility of the authorising body to ensure the competency of their staff, by providing appropriate education and training for the safe and effective administration of the medicine. This means that the vaccine will be delivered locally by an employer, as well as the training necessary to administer it.

    The recruitment of volunteer vaccinators is currently closed but further information about how to get involved with the COVID-19 vaccination programmes across the UK can be found at the following websites:

    Scottish Government

    COVID-19 guidance on offering support

    NHS England

    Join the NHS COVID-19 vaccine team

    COVID-19 Vaccine Jobs

    Health Education and Improvement Wales

    COVID-19 Volunteer vaccination programme

    Further information on the medicines and prescribing rights of our professions and PGDs can be found on our website. You may also wish to take a look at NICE’s website, which provides detailed guidance on PGDs, including training and competency.

  • The temporary register is now closed to new registrants. Anyone who has recently left the Register will need to return via our readmission or returning to practice processes to become registered.

    If you do not want to re-join the Register, but still want to help out with vaccines, you may also be able to support in a non-registered health professional role and be authorised by the national protocol.

Receiving the vaccine

  • As a health and care professional, you are more likely to be exposed to certain viruses. Getting yourself vaccinated is therefore the best way to protect yourself, your families, colleagues and patients.

    HCPC is supportive of vaccination campaigns and other public health initiatives, and regularly promote these on our website. However, the HCPC does not set vaccination requirements for its registrants. This will instead depend on the specific context you are working in and the service users you support. Therefore, this is normally determined by local policies set by employers.

    If you have any questions about what vaccinations you will need for your role, we would advise you get in touch with your employer. If you are a student, you will need to speak to your education provider / practice placement provider.

  • Whilst the HCPC does not mandate that registrants be vaccinated, the potential risks of exposure transmission to vulnerable service users when working in healthcare means we would strongly encourage registrants to be vaccinated, where a vaccine has been approved and is available, unless there are good reasons why vaccination is not appropriate in a registrant's individual circumstances.

    We recognise that registrants may be unable to receive certain vaccines, due to underlying health conditions. If that is the case, we would instead expect the registrant to put in place other appropriate measures to manage the risk posed to them, colleagues and service users.

    If you have good reason not to be vaccinated, you need to be confident that measures are in place where you work to manage any risk of transmission that your health may pose to service users, and you need to take appropriate steps yourself to reduce risks and prioritise safety.

  • Yes, the MHRA have looked at this and decided that getting vaccinated is just as important for those who have already had COVID-19 as it is for those who haven’t.

  • The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that pregnant women should be offered COVID-19 vaccines at the same time as people of the same age or risk group.

    Women should discuss the benefits and risks of having the vaccine with their healthcare professional and reach a joint decision based on individual circumstances.

    The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine should only be considered for use in pregnancy when the potential benefits outweigh any potential risks for the mother and baby. Women should discuss the benefits and risks of having the vaccine with their healthcare professional and reach a joint decision based on individual circumstances. Women who are breastfeeding can also be given the vaccine.

    Those who are trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination, and breastfeeding women may be offered vaccination with either vaccine following consideration of the woman’s clinical need for immunisation against COVID-19. The UK Chief Medical Officers agree with this advice.

    For further information, PHE have published detailed guidance about the vaccination specifically for women either planning a pregnancy, who are pregnant or have recently given birth, which you may wish to take a look at.

  • The British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI) have advised that individuals with a history of immediate onset-anaphylaxis to classes of drugs or unexplained anaphylaxis should not receive the Pfizer vaccine, but that the Astrazeneca vaccine may be used as an alternative.

    Further information about the risk of allergies and precautions to take can be found in PHE’s Green Book.

    The Anaphylaxis Campaign have also published a detailed FAQ about the vaccine and allergies.

  • The HCPC expects every professional on our Register to adhere to our Standards of conduct, performance and ethics. These set out our expectations for personal and professional behaviour. This includes being honest and making sure that their conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in them and their profession. Registrants must also ensure any promotional activities they are involved must be accurate and not likely to mislead.

    If a concern was raised about a registrant’s conduct, we would assess this against the standards. We will also consider the context that registrants are working in; please see our joint statement on regulating during the pandemic for more information.

  • The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) are the independent experts who advise the Government on which vaccine/s the UK should use and provide advice on who should be offered the vaccination first.

    JCVI will consider each vaccine and provide their advice to the Government once detailed information on the characteristics and clinical properties of the approved vaccine becomes available.

    JCVI published advice in December on the groups that should be prioritised for vaccination. This is a risk-based model based on clinical risk. The groups are (in order of priority):

    • Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
    • All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
    • All those 75 years of age and over
    • All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
    • All those 65 years of age and over
    • All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
    • All those 60 years of age and over
    • All those 55 years of age and over
    • All those 50 years of age and over

    Public Health England have developed additional guidance detailing which groups of people should be included within Priority Group 2 ‘frontline health and social care workers’, These include, but are not limited to:

    • All staff involved in direct patient care in either secondary or primary care settings. This includes those working in independent and voluntary settings, as well as temporary staff, students, trainees, volunteers and locum workers.
    • Hospital-based laboratory staff who handle COVID-19 infected or potentially infected specimens.

    The COVID-19 Green Book also includes a definition of frontline worker on page 12 of Chapter 14a. This also includes those working in ‘community-based mental health or addiction services’.

    Frontline HCPC registrants should therefore be vaccinated as priority as part of the second group. However, ultimate responsibility for determining who is a frontline worker will be for local vaccination centres.

    Deployment of vaccinations will be managed by the health services in each nation: NHS England and NHS Improvement, NHS Wales, NHS Scotland, and Health and Social Care Northern Ireland.

    HCPC, alongside our profession’s professional bodies, have been working closely with the UK Governments as they develop their vaccination plans.

    If you are having trouble accessing the vaccine, you should speak to your professional body who will be best placed to lobby on yours and your profession’s behalf.

  • It’s important to remember that the vaccine’s efficacy is not immediate, and you will not have total protection even after the waiting period has passed following your second dose.

    Whether you or your service user have been vaccinated is one of the factors to take into consideration when managing risk. We advise weighing up the risks of contracting COVID-19 by providing that care and treatment against the risks to the service user if that care and treatment is not provided. In particular, you should consider:

    • the health implications of not providing treatment to that service user; and
    • the potential burden that may place on other services in the health and care sector if untreated.

    In addition to these risks, we would expect all registrants to continue to follow restrictions in their own area.

  • The three models of delivery for the vaccine are:

    • Hospital Hubs – NHS providers vaccinating staff onsite
    • Local Vaccination Services – Community and primary care-led service, likely to include GP practices and local authority sourced buildings
    • Vaccination Centres – Large scale centres such as sport and conference venues

    Vaccination to at-risk groups will take place at the most appropriate settings to encourage uptake and will take place in certain individual’s usual place of residence where appropriate and necessary.

    NHS England and NHS Improvement have published further operational guidance on the vaccination of health and care professionals. This guidance states that all NHS Trusts will be established as hospital hubs with responsibility for vaccinating all health and care professionals included within priority group 2. Local arrangements may also be developed with vaccination centres, or GP and Community Pharmacy-run vaccination centres.

  • If you work in primary care, you do not need to contact the NHS or your GP. Your practice should be contacted by the hospital hub or local vaccination centre responsible for administering the vaccine when it is your time to receive it,

    If you work in secondary care in an NHS trust, then your trust will organise your vaccine as your employer. You should speak to your manager if you have any questions.

  • All professionals involved in direct patient care should receive the COVID-19 vaccination as part of the second priority group. This includes those working outside of NHS settings, for example, in the independent, private and voluntary sector. Our first duty as a regulator is to protect the public and we believe that the vaccination of frontline HCPC registrants is an important measure for the safety of service users across the UK.

    In England, frontline HCPC registrants can receive a vaccine at their local hospital hub (this could be either the hospital hub nearest to your home or your workplace). More information about your hospital hub’s booking process will be available on its website. If this information is not available, the current advice is to call the hospital’s switchboard to enquire about the process.

    Furthermore, in England and until 28 February, eligible health and care professionals, including students, not yet vaccinated are able to self-book a vaccination online via the national booking system.

    Those accessing the vaccine via this route will be required to provide photo ID, an authorisation letter from the local authority, and a signed letter of authorisation from their employer or a wage slip dated within the last 3 months. Further information about this process, including eligibility, can be found here: C1125-Self-referral-for-social-care-worker-vaccination-11-February-2021.pdf

    In Scotland, HCPC registrants can access the vaccination through their local Health Board, by contacting the relevant vaccination scheduling contact for each. Further information and contact details for each Board can be found here: Cabinet Secretary for Commonwealth Games Sport Equalities and Pensioners

    In Wales, registrants should contact their local Health Boards to find out where they should access the vaccine from.

    HCPC has been working closely with UK governments to understand how they plan to identify and contact HCPC registrants working outside the NHS.

    We will update these pages as soon as the governments of Wales and Northern Ireland set out their plans.

  • In England, the criteria for proving eligibility will be agreed locally but hospital hubs have been asked to take a pragmatic approach in enabling access to vaccination for health and care workers. Your HCPC registration documentation, documentation from your employer or documents from your own business should be acceptable to clarify your role as a professional.

    We will update these pages as soon as the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set out their plans.

  • Any vaccine that is approved for use will pass the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy. Therefore, any vaccine received will be beneficial and safe to receive.

    The vaccine people are offered will be appropriate for them and will be based on clinical judgement supported by the advice of the JCVI.

  • Regardless of your age, if you have already had a first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine without experiencing serious side effects, you should complete your course with the same vaccine you had for the first dose.

  • As a health and care worker, you should have already received your first dose of the vaccine, in which case you should complete your course with the same vaccine you had for the first dose. Because of your work, the JCVI states that the benefits of vaccination in protecting you against the serious consequences of COVID-19 outweigh the risks posed by rare complications.  More information about these rare complications as well as the risk/benefit analysis for different groups can be found on the UK Government website.

  • In November 2021 the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced the results of their recent consultation on mandatory vaccination for frontline health and social care staff. This announcement set out government plans to introduce Covid-19 vaccination as a condition of deployment for all frontline health and social care workers in England. Subject to parliamentary approval, these requirements are due to come into force in April 2022.

    These measures mean that all health and social care workers who have face-to-face contact with people while providing care in CQC-regulated settings will be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19, unless they are exempt.

    For more information, please visit the NHS England website here.

Page updated on: 24/12/2021