Changes to regulations that allow a wider group of healthcare professionals to be trained to administer vaccinations have now come into effect.
The changes to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 mean that more healthcare professionals could be trained to provide flu and any potential COVID-19 vaccinations.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The NHS has vast experience in vaccinating millions of people against diseases every year.
“These legal changes will help us in doing everything we can to make sure we are ready to roll out a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it has passed clinical trials and undergone rigorous checks by the regulator.”
The changes also give the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) powers to grant temporary authorisation, pending the granting of a licence, for new vaccines and treatments needed to tackle public health threats (provided they meet the highest safety, quality and effectiveness standards).
This means that the MHRA may in the future authorise a vaccine needed to respond to a public health need, without the need to wait for European Medicines Agency approval.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says the workforce expansion will include those who already have experience in handling vaccinations but may currently work outside of NHS settings, such as independent nurses, allied healthcare professionals, paramedics, physiotherapists, pharmacists and student nurses and doctors.
All new vaccinators will need to undergo a training programme to ensure patient safety, and where the right to vaccinate is extended to other community pharmacy team members such as pharmacy technicians, this is likely to require the supervision of the pharmacist.
Interim chief scientific officer at the MHRA, Christian Schneider, said, “Patient safety is our top priority. The independent commission on human medicines will advise the UK government on the safety, quality, and effectiveness of any potential vaccine. No vaccine will be deployed unless stringent standards have been met through a comprehensive clinical trial programme.
“The preferred route to enable deployment of any new vaccine remains through the usual product licensing processes. But reinforced safeguards are now in place to strengthen the regulatory regime and our ability to protect public health, should temporary authorisations be necessary.”