Pharmacists will be able to administer a potential Covid-19 vaccine, under government proposals published today.
Under the proposals, which will be consulted on over the next three weeks, the scope of patient group directions (PGDs) would be expanded to allow the administration of any medicine, including Covid-19 vaccines.
Currently a PGD cannot be used to administer anything that does not have full marketing authorisation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), but the proposed change would mean pharmacists – and other professionals who already deliver vaccines under PGDs – could also do so for an unlicensed vaccine.
It is one of three amendments the Government is proposing to make to the Human Medicine Regulations 2012 to increase the number of health workers who can safely deliver ‘licensed and potentially unlicensed vaccinations for Covid-19’.
The consultation also proposes to introduce a new national protocol – ‘written similarly to a PGD’ – that would allow non-registered health professionals, and those that are registered but don’t currently vaccinate, to be able to do so.
It also outlines plans to expand the workforce that can administer flu and Covid-19 vaccinations to include midwives, nursing associates, operating department practitioners, paramedics, and physiotherapists.
This extension to additional healthcare professions ‘will be time limited to 1 April 2022 (and so the end of next year’s annual flu immunisation programme) to allow fuller consideration for making a long-term change in this area,’ the consultation document said.
The Government is also proposing to grant the MHRA powers to temporarily approve the use of an unlicensed – but safely tested – Covid-19 vaccine before the end of the year.
The consultation document said that if there is a ‘compelling case on public health grounds’ then 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’.
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.
He added: ‘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.’