Last reviewed 1 September 2020

A Government consultation has revealed that more healthcare staff could be trained to administer vaccinations to help the NHS cope with extra workload this winter.

The consultation, which reveals plans to amend amend the Human Medicine Regulations 2012 as the NHS prepares to deliver its largest-ever flu immunisation campaign and potential Covid-19 vaccine, proposes that healthcare staff including midwives, nursing associates, operating department practitioners, paramedics, physiotherapists and pharmacists could be brought into the group to be trained to administer vaccines.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said, as a basic issue of fairness, it thinks these employees "should benefit from the same immunity from civil liability as a registered healthcare professional who is performing the same role, if the person who is not a healthcare professional is following one of the proposed new protocols."

The possibility of rolling out an unlicensed vaccine for Covid-19 is also being explored in the document, should this be recommended by advisors on the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation (JCVI).

Until December 2020, EU legislation still applies governing the authorisation of new vaccines through the European Medicines Agency (EMA). However, after January 2020, when Brexit takes effect, the function is transferred to the UK licensing authority. If a vaccine is discovered before this time, the proposals will reinforce safeguards to support the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to consider approving its use, before a full product licence is granted, provided it is proven to be safe and effective during robust and extensive clinical trials.

The consultation said that if the case is compelling, on public health grounds, for using a vaccine be-fore it is given a product licence, the JCVI would take the unusual step of advising the UK Government to use a tested, unlicensed vaccine. The right law needs to be in place to deal with that scenario.

There were also suggestions that the vaccine could be distributed by the army.

The consultation, Changes to Human Medicine Regulations to Support the Rollout of Covid-19 Vaccines, was published on 28 August and closes on 18 September 2020 is available at: www.gov.uk