An ‘expanded workforce’ including midwives will be delivering flu vaccines and a potential Covid-19 vaccine, under proposals unveiled by the Government on Friday.
The three-week consultation also focuses on a proposal of mass vaccinations against Covid-19 using a yet-to-be-licensed vaccine, if one becomes available this year.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is hoping new legislation – which would impact midwives, paramedics and others – could come into effect by October, ahead of the winter flu vaccines season.
The consultation proposes to amend the Human Medicine Regulations 2012 to ‘expand the workforce legally allowed to administer vaccines under NHS and local authority occupational health schemes, so that additional healthcare professionals in the occupational health workforce will be able to administer vaccines’.
It said this would include ‘midwives, nursing associates, operating department practitioners, paramedics, physiotherapists and pharmacists’.
The consultation said: ‘This will help ensure we have the workforce needed to deliver a mass Covid-19 vaccination programme, in addition to delivery of an upscaled influenza programme, in the autumn.’
The consultation also said that ‘there is a possibility that both the flu vaccine and the Covid-19 vaccine will be delivered at the same time, and we need to make sure that in this scenario there is sufficient workforce to allow for this’.
The DHSC consultation also proposes to grant the MHRA powers to approve an unlicensed – but safety tested – vaccine against Covid-19 before the end of the year.
The consultation document said that ‘given the nature of the threat we face, the JCVI may take the very unusual step of advising the UK government to use a tested, unlicensed vaccine against Covid-19, and we need to make sure that the right legislative measures are in place to deal with that scenario’.
Amended legislation is necessary because as it stands, during the Brexit transition period, a new potential Covid vaccine would need to be granted a licence by the European Medicines Agency rather than just the MHRA, the DHSC explained.
Under the wide-spanning proposals, pharmaceutical companies would also be granted part-protection from civil liability for bringing to market an unlicensed product.
Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said: ‘We are making progress in developing Covid-19 vaccines which we hope will be important in saving lives, protecting healthcare workers and returning to normal in future.
‘If we develop effective vaccines, it’s important we make them available to patients as quickly as possible but only once strict safety standards have been met.
‘The proposals consulted on today suggest ways to improve access and ensure as many people are protected from Covid-19 and flu as possible without sacrificing the absolute need to ensure that any vaccine used is both safe and effective.’
BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘As we look to the “biggest flu vaccination campaign ever” and the possibility of a mass Covid-19 vaccination programme, expanding the workforce who are trained and able to give immunisations would be helpful.
‘Of course, much will depend on the funding arrangements and availability of these staff to provide extra capacity for such widespread campaigns.’
It comes as Pulse reported that the DHSC is considering yet-to-be-licensed flu vaccines as a way to procure enough stocks for this year’s expanded campaign.
The deputy chief medical officer has said it is unlikely that flu and a Covid-19 vaccine could be co-administered, at the same appointment, due to safety concerns.