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RCN position on vaccination

Published: 22 September 2022
Last updated: 22 September 2022
Abstract: RCN position on vaccination

The RCN recognise that vaccination is a key pillar in infection control and disease prevention across the population as a whole and those groups identified as particularly at risk from contracting specific vaccine preventable diseases or from transmitting infection. Maximizing the uptake of vaccines recommended to all sectors of the population is crucial to the success of any vaccine programme.

The RCN work closely with UK public health teams and NHS to support the UK vaccination programmes, maximising the uptake for safe and effective vaccines across the population and in supporting the nursing staff to manage and deliver vaccine programmes.

The majority of vaccines in the UK are given by nursing teams. This is via primary care or through immunisation teams in community or school settings. There are differences across the UK on how these routine services are arranged. It is however the RCNs view that all vaccinators have appropriate education and training and with a period of supervision and competency assessment to fulfil this role and ongoing opportunities for continuing professional development to update knowledge and skills. 

The RCN clinical resources on immunisation and travel health include a range of information and resources to support this, in addition to the FAQs on COVID-19 and Influenza vaccination advice.

In the UK, the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advise the UK governments on vaccination policy. The committee are an independent body of experts who consider the vaccine safety, availability and efficacy alongside the ethical, programmatic, logistical and operational elements needed for any vaccine programme. Immunisation policy and strategy is set out in Immunisation against infectious disease – the Green Book.

Delivery of vaccination in the UK is primarily a nursing role and the RCN’s overriding aims in relation to vaccination are to:

  • Support members to have up to date and evidenced information to protect those most vulnerable to the severe effects of infectious diseases where a safe and effective vaccine is available.
  • Support members to ensure vaccines are delivered safely and protect public trust and confidence in immunisation services.
  • Ensure the nursing voice is significant and integral to all planning. Nursing teams are fundamental to the safe and effective delivery of vaccines
  • Support guidance and recommendations for vaccination from the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) as an independent body of experts and help disseminate this to RCN members.

Under Health and Safety regulations immunisation may be recommended for staff as part of workplace risk assessment. This is detailed in the Immunisation of healthcare and laboratory staff: the green book, chapter 12.

The RCN recognise that immunisation 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 vaccines recommended as part of work place risk assessment. There is good evidence presented in the Immunisation against infectious disease: the green book on vaccine safety efficacy and the impact the individual vaccines have on limiting the spread of vaccine preventable diseases.

The RCN does not agree however on mandating vaccines to staff or for take up of the vaccines to be a condition of employment. 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.