The RCN actively encourages its members to take up the COVID-19 vaccine. The NMC Code requires nurses to take measures to protect their patients and the public as well as to protect themselves against serious illness as a professional responsibility.
The vaccine reduces the individual’s risk of severe illness, it will also reduce the chance of you contracting the infection and thereby passing infection to others who are more vulnerable to serious disease.
Alongside PPE and social distancing, vaccination is a measure to reduce the risk. Employers should take all reasonable steps to support the vaccination of at risk staff. The RCN believes that this includes employers allowing these staff reasonable paid time away from work to attend vaccination appointments.
Under regulation 7 of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH) 2002, employers are required to assess the risk to staff of occupational exposure to hazardous substances (including biological agents and pathogens) and take measures to control and reduce the risk of exposure. Under regulation 3 of the COSHH Regulations employers have a duty to risk assess and put in place control measures to extend to those who may be affected by the work carried out by the employer, this includes taking all reasonable steps to ensure agency and bank staff are protected, vaccinated and provided with PPE.
The RCN recommends taking up vaccination as best practice. However, we recognise that some members might choose not to be vaccinated. Please see our section on refusal below.
How do I get the vaccine (NHS, agency, students and those outside the NHS)?
Any staff who have not been offered the vaccine should contact their employer to find out how to go about getting it in the first instances. In England, frontline staff who have not had the COVID-19 vaccine can call 119 or book online.
The Priority groups for coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination is published by the JCVI. It includes all:
- frontline health and social care workers who provide care to vulnerable people wherever they are employed
including those who are:
- employed independently to provide care to vulnerable people
- working in hospice care
- working temporarily in the COVID-19 vaccination programme who provide face-to-face clinical care.
The Green Book chapter for COVID-19 vaccination provides more detail and recommends that temporary staff such as bank or agency workers, including those working in the COVID-19 vaccination programme, students, trainees and volunteers who are working with patients in the NHS or in an independent or voluntary setting, must also be included.
The vaccine programme for health and care staff is being rolled out through organisations those staff at high risk of acquiring infection, at high individual risk of developing serious disease, or at risk of transmitting infection to multiple vulnerable persons or other staff in a health care environment, are considered of higher priority for vaccination than those at lower risk. This prioritisation should be taken into account during vaccine deployment.
Can internationally recruited nurses get the vaccine?
Yes, internationally recruited nurses working in the NHS will be offered a COVID-19 vaccine and will not need a GP/NHS number.
Giving other vaccines alongside the COVID-19 vaccine
The guidance in the Green Book chapter for COVID-19 vaccination recommends there is a seven day gap between administration of all other vaccines and the COVID-19 vaccine.
I am hesitant about being vaccinated and I am worried about what will happen at my work if I refuse it. What should I do?
Make sure you find out about the vaccine, talk to colleagues and read the information in the Green Book and other reputable vaccine resources, for example see the external links below and the RCN's clinical resources.
You should also find out what your employer expects from you in relation to the vaccine. Check whether your employment contract has any terms about vaccination and check the local policy.
You should speak to your manager and/or your HR department to find out if there are other arrangements (like redeployment) that can be utilised if your employer only wants vaccinated staff to work in your area. Ask whether testing and PPE will mitigate the risk sufficiently for you to continue to work in your usual area. See our section below for more information on refusal.