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Vaccinations: what you need to know

With vaccines now beginning to be approved for use in the UK, plans are underway for a mass vaccination programme to cover the four countries of the UK.

With news of the first COVID-19 vaccine being approved for use in the UK, plans are underway for a mass vaccination programme to cover the four countries of the UK.

Registrants are likely to play a key role in the roll out of any approved COVID-19 vaccine and the HCPC has already made the case to Government 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.

    Public Health England have recently issued new guidance in their Immunisation against infectious disease handbook, otherwise known as ‘the Green Book’, which aims to support frontline workers in delivering the COVID-19 vaccine.

    Once a vaccine is approved for use in the UK, guidance will be published by Public Health England to support health professionals administering the vaccine. This will be made available at https://coronavirusresources.phe.gov.uk/covid-19-vaccine/resources.

  • 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 have now began 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 has already 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 the Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine specifically, for both vaccines 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 Pfizer vaccine may be given between 3 to 12 weeks following the first dose, while the second does of the AstraZeneca may be given between 4 to 12 weeks following the first dose.

    We will update this page once we know more.

  • 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, which can be accessed here. 

    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.

    PHE guidance for health and care professionals about receiving the vaccines can be accessed here

    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 here

    PHW have also developed a suite of resources specially for health and care professionals, which can be found here: https://phw.nhs.wales/topics/immunisation-and-vaccines/covid-19-vaccination-information/resources-for-health-and-social-care-professionals/

    Health Protection Scotland

    Latest information and resources by Health Protection Scotland can be found here

    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’s website here

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

    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 now published the national protocol for the administration and delivery of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which allows for non-registered health professionals to administer the vaccine under the supervision of an experienced registered health professional. A copy of the protocol can be accessed here.

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

    We will issue more advice on this once we know more.

  • First things first, it is important you check you are legally entitled to administer the vaccine before undertaking this work. 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.

    Public Health England will be developing guidance for health professionals on any COVID-19 vaccination approved for use in the UK. These will be made available at https://coronavirusresources.phe.gov.uk/covid-19-vaccine/resources/.

  • 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.

    If you are not currently employed, we would advise you to contact your local NHS hospitals to see if they are recruiting health professionals to assist with the vaccine roll out specifically.

    There is further information on the medical entitlements of our professions and PGDs. 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. This is subject to Government issuing a national protocol which would allow this.

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.

  • Although the data does not indicate any safety concern or harm to pregnancy, there is currently not enough evidence to recommend routine use of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy.

    Women should therefore not be vaccinated if they may be pregnant or if they are planning a pregnancy within three months of the first dose, and the vaccination should be postponed until completion of the pregnancy. If a woman finds that she is pregnant after she has started the first course of a vaccine, she should complete her pregnancy before finishing the recommended schedule.

    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.

  • 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, which can be found here.

  • 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.

    HCPC registrants, should therefore be vaccinated as priority as part of the second group.

    Individuals will be notified and invited for a vaccination when it is the right time for their group to receive the vaccination. This will likely be in the form of a letter from your GP or the national booking system.

    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, are working closely with the UK Governments to understand the impact on our professions. We will update the website when we know more.

  • 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.

    HCPC are working closely with UK governments to understand how registrants working outside NHS settings will receive the vaccine in practice.

    We will update these pages as soon as we know more.

  • 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 advise of the JCVI.

Page updated on: 22/12/2020
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