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Government looks to extend pandemic vaccination rules

Government looks to extend pandemic vaccination rules

The government is looking to extend regulations introduced during the pandemic that enabled an expanded workforce, including nursing associates, to deliver a Covid-19 or flu vaccination.

It said the move would help maintain ‘capacity and flexibility’ as the UK transitions out of the coronavirus pandemic.

This week the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has launched a consultation which proposes an extension to aspects of the Human Medicines (Coronavirus and Influenza) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, which was introduced during the pandemic in response to enormous pressures on the health system.

The DHSC said it was looking to continue with three provisions covered by the legislation until April 2026, to help ‘support the continuing supply, distribution and administration’ of Covid-19 and flu vaccines.

The regulations being proposed for extension include:

  • Enabling the use of an extended workforce who are legally and safely able to administer a Covid-19 or flu vaccine without the input of a prescriber, using an approved protocol (R247A);
  • Enabling trained healthcare professionals to conduct the final stage of assembly, preparation, and labelling of Covid-19 vaccines without additional marketing authorisations or manufacturer’s licences being required (R3A);
  • And allowing Covid-19 and flu vaccines to be moved between premises at the end of the supply chain, by providers operating under NHS arrangements and the medical services of His Majesty’s Forces, that do not hold wholesale dealer licences (R19).

The proposal around extending the workforce – R247A – would allow vaccines to be delivered by registered health professionals who cannot normally do so without the input of a prescriber, such as nursing associates and pharmacy technicians, as well as non-registered professionals such as healthcare assistants or maternity support workers.

The DHSC said: ‘The continued use of this mechanism to enable optimisation of the expanded workforce is essential to ensure the NHS across the UK can have certainty in its workforce plans, while maintaining capacity and flexibility as we transition out of the pandemic.’

It added: ‘R247A is only permitted for use during a pandemic, and we temporarily wish to expand the provision while a permanent solution is found.’

Meanwhile, the other two regulations being consulted on ‘sunset provisions which mean they will be repealed on 1 April 2024 unless extended’.

The government said that the proposals outlined in this consultation ‘aim to maximise patient and public health benefits’ of these vaccines by ensuring their widespread availability, and that patient safety is ‘at the heart of any public health vaccination programme’.

The consultation said: ‘The Covid-19 and influenza vaccination programmes have saved tens of thousands of lives across the UK.

‘It is important that we continue to ensure the most vulnerable are protected through a targeted vaccination offer for those most at risk.’

The DHSC is seeking views in relation to England, Wales and Scotland, and in conjunction with the Department of Health in Northern Ireland.

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