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COVID-19 vaccine approved: what this means for nursing staff

2 Dec 2020

As the first COVID-19 vaccine is approved for use in the UK, we address issues around vaccine rollout, who should receive it first, and whether it’s mandatory for nursing staff.

Illustration of syringe containing blue liquid on yellow and blue background

The first COVID-19 vaccine, from Pfizer/BioNTech, has today (2 December) been approved for use in the UK.  

We’ve released our expectations for vaccination rollout and how it will affect nursing staff. This covers who should administer the COVID-19 vaccine, which groups will be prioritised to receive it, and whether nursing staff should have the COVID-19 vaccine themselves. 

As nursing staff play a crucial role in all vaccination programmes, we expect to be involved in the planning of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. With millions of vaccines expected to be administered, it’s possible that nursing support workers, nursing associates, assistant practitioners, and student nurses on placement may be called upon to assist. Nursing staff administering the vaccine must be appropriately trained and supervised. 

With health and care staff at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, we welcome the government decision to include them in the first priority group to receive the vaccine. 

We already encourage members to have the influenza vaccine, although do not support making it mandatory. We take a similar approach to a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. Health and care staff should have easy access to the vaccine during the working day and be encouraged to receive it. Any staff concerns should be explored. 

Helen Donovan, RCN Professional Lead for Public Health, said: “Vaccines have proved themselves to be among the most effective public health measures available for controlling diseases. Vaccinating those who need it safely and as quickly as possible will be challenging. It is clear that it will need input from across the system and from various health care practitioners to ensure safe and timely programme delivery. 

“As nurses, we are at the forefront of vaccine delivery and we know we are trusted by the public. It is vital that the health care workforce is equipped to build public confidence. Nursing staff will be fundamental to the administration and delivery of this vaccine, as they are with all vaccines. They are highly skilled and have the knowledge needed to support the COVID-19 immunisation programme.” 

RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair added: “The approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine will come as a relief to many people in the UK. Nursing staff, who have huge experience in delivering vaccination programmes, will be asked to play a key role in the vaccine rollout. 

“They already administer the majority of vaccines and will be fundamental in the safe and effective delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, including the training and supervision of support staff. This will be a huge logistical operation and will require the services of those from across health services and beyond to make it work. 

“As the plans for the roll-out are developed, nursing staff will continue to work with colleagues to ensure it can be safely delivered. It is essential these plans include details on maintaining day-to-day heath and care services for all those that need them." 


Page last updated - 17/05/2021