The Government intends to extend relaxed vaccine rules enabling a wider workforce to administer Covid vaccines during the pandemic.
The Human Medicines Regulations 2012 were temporarily amended during preparations to the Covid vaccination campaign in 2020, to allow for ‘midwives, nursing associates, operating department practitioners, paramedics, physiotherapists and pharmacists’ to be trained to administer both Covid and flu vaccines.
These changes are due to expire from April, but the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said has said that ‘capacity’ would be ‘severely constrained’ were this to happen.
It said: ‘An expanded workforce is required to ensure that the Covid-19 vaccine can continue to be safely deployed at the necessary scale and pace required alongside influenza vaccine and other NHS activities.
‘Capacity to undertake these activities would be severely constrained if the regulations which will cease to have effect on 1 April 2022 are not extended.’
It made the comments last month as part of a response to a three-week consultation on extending the changes that ran during December.
Views were also sought on expanding the list of who can vaccinate and whether the legislation should be extended to all future pandemic scenarios – not just Covid or influenza.
Responses to the consultation from NHS, health service delivery and social care professionals, suggest that 79% agree that provisions to allow an expanded workforce to do Covid-19 and flu jabs during the pandemic should be kept permanently rather than being allowed to lapse in April.
Among those groups, 45% said there was a need to add other professions to the list of those who can give vaccines. Some called for pharmacy technicians and other allied health professionals with relevant experience to be included.
DHSC said further consultation would be needed before these changes were introduced.
Provisions that allow a wider group of professionals to give a vaccine under a patient group direction from NHS bodies or local authorities should also be kept permanently for Covid-19, flu and any future pandemic diseases, those responding to the consultation said.
Discussions with key organisations had suggested that making this permanent would ‘aid understanding and long-term planning for organisations operating in health and social care’, the DHSC response said.
There was also a great deal of support for applying the provisions made during Covid-19 to all future pandemics where mass vaccination would be needed.
The consultation also attracted responses from the general public but many of these did not relate to the question being asked or provide any evidence, the DHSC noted.
Plans to make a permanent change to the legislation due to lapse in April will now go before Parliament to ‘give health services the certainty they need to be able to continue to plan and operate mass vaccination programmes on the same basis as now’, it continued.
The Government also plans to make it a permanent statutory obligation for Covid-19 and influenza vaccination activities carried out under pandemic protocols ‘to be supervised by a registered doctor, nurse or pharmacist trained and competent in all aspects of the protocol’.
More evidence would be collected on extending workforce flexibilities to the private sector and adding other professional groups to those who can give vaccines before a decision would be made, the DHSC said.
Speaking to a House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee hearing he suggested such a service would cover other vaccines not just Covid.
Human Medicines Act amendments the DHSC wants to make permanent
increasing the vaccinator workforce in the NHS and in occupational health (potentially including private sector occupational health schemes);
enabling vaccine final preparation, labelling and related activities to take place under NHS arrangements without additional marketing authorisations or manufacturer’s licences being needed;
allowing vaccines to be moved between premises at the end of the supply chain by NHS bodies – and the medical services of the military – that do not hold wholesale dealer licences;
allowing pharmacies who are running vaccination services to do so from premises other than their registered pharmacy premises.