RCN position on health care staff and the influenza vaccine
The RCN recognise that vaccination is a key pillar in infection control and disease prevention. The fundamental position of the RCN is that all members of the nursing team, including students and nursing support staff, should have vaccines deemed necessary to help protect themselves, colleagues, family members, patients and the wider community.
We consider this to be best practice and it is enshrined within the NMC code as the right thing to do for nursing practice. It is a professional responsibility for all registered nurses midwives and nursing associates to take measures to protect their patients and the public as well as to protect themselves against serious illness.
The RCN actively encourages all members to have the influenza vaccine. There is good evidence presented in ‘Immunisation against infectious disease: the green book' that the vaccine is safe, it helps prevent severe illness and vaccination of health care staff and carers of vulnerable groups will help stop infection spread.
The RCN does not agree however that staff or students should be mandated to have the vaccine. Staff need to have support and opportunities to discuss vaccination and be able to make this decision with the right information, encouragement and clear explanation of the benefit and value of the vaccine.
It is imperative that all organisations, across all sectors, including social care organisations and educational establishments make it easy for their staff and students to get vaccinated. This approach works well in achieving a good uptake of vaccine (NICE guideline 103, 2018).
Where individuals decide not to have the vaccine, it is ultimately their decision. The RCN may be able to provide workplace support if that results in any disciplinary action from employers. The RCN will be proactive in encouraging members to have the vaccine and in promoting the benefits. Alongside having an expectation for employers to make sure the vaccine is available and that they make sure staff are given time to have it.