Currently, only doctors, pharmacists and some nurses are legally allowed to administer vaccines in the UK.
But new laws passed today grant more health workers – including midwives and even medical students – to be able to inoculate members of the public.
They will be put through ‘robust training’ according to the Government, which it says will ‘save thousands of lives by increasing access to vaccines against killer diseases’.
Health chiefs plan to vaccinate a record number of people against the flu this year so hospitals can focus primarily on Covid-19 patients.
And there’s a slim chance a Covid-19 vaccine could be ready by Christmas – although it’s looking more like early next year – which will mean vaccinating millions more people at the same time.
Physios and paramedics will be trained to deliver flu and Covid-19 jabs to help the NHS carry out its mass vaccination programme through the winter (file)
A Government spokesperson said: ‘We will be able to increase the number of fully trained and experienced healthcare professionals to administer Covid-19 and flu vaccines under NHS and local authority occupational health schemes, as well as enable an expanded workforce that can administer these vaccinations to the public.
‘This will make it easier and quicker for patients and healthcare workers to access the vaccines they need, protecting them against fatal diseases.
‘Our planning will ensure this does not affect other services in hospitals and in GP and community services, by drawing on a pool of experienced NHS professionals through the NHS Bring Back Scheme.
‘This will ensure we can provide a safe and effective vaccination programme while continuing to offer timely access to other NHS services.’
This year in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the flu jab will be offered to the over-50s for the first time. In Scotland, it’s being given to the over-55s.
But these groups will only be given access after the vulnerable groups – which include over-65s, pregnant women, and people with conditions like lung disease or diabetes.
Last winter 25million people in England were offered the flu jab, with officials expanding the annual vaccination programme to include all Year Six children for the first time.
All over-65s, pregnant women, NHS workers and people with serious long-term illnesses such as heart disease and Parkinson’s are also eligible for the free jab.
More Covid-19 vaccine hopes as scientists say experimental Chinese jab is safe and produces an immune response
Hopes of getting a Covid-19 vaccine were boosted again today after an experimental Chinese jab was found to be safe and produce an immune response.
Every volunteer given a double-dose of state-owned firm Sinopharm’s vaccine made antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
In theory, this would protect them from catching the virus again in the future, or at least protect them from developing a severe bout of the disease. But this has not been proven by the scientists yet — they only injected fewer than 1,000 participants.
Ministers repeatedly insisted Britain could start to use a Covid-19 jab by September — but the Government has still yet to approve any vaccine because of a lack of data that they work.
The results of the first two phases of clinical trials of Sinopharm’s vaccine, published in The Lancet, come after experts released promising results of another candidate jab made by Pfizer and its German partner.
A vaccine is considered key to ending the Covid-19 pandemic because it ensures a person will not catch the coronavirus.
All hopes are being pinned on finding one proven to work, but until then, measures such as social distancing have to be used to prevent the virus spreading.
More than 600 healthy adults were given Sinopharm’s jab, dubbed BBIBP, and none suffered an adverse reaction.
The most common side effect, reported by a quarter of volunteers, was pain at the point the needle was injected — which is common for any jab.
Figures show there are around 10million people aged between 50 and 65 in the UK, meaning the vaccination scheme has had to increase dramatically in size to catch all of them.
There have already been some logistical hiccups in trying to roll-out the huge flu vaccination programme, with high street pharmacist Boots having to limit its stocks for the most vulnerable already.
The arrival of a Covid-19 vaccine this winter could put even more strain on the supply chain.
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.’
It comes after the government’s vaccine tsar admitted there is only a ‘slim’ chance Oxford University’s Covid-19 vaccine will be ready to go before Christmas.
UK Vaccine Taskforce Kate Bingham said she is hopeful that trials will show signs of success by the end of the year but warned there is no guarantee.
Oxford’s jab, which works by transporting a fragment of the coronavirus into the body on-board another virus, is the global front-runner in the bid to stop the disease.
Early data from clinical trials suggest the vaccine is safe for people to receive and appears to trigger the correct type of immune response.
Hopes for ending the pandemic currently hinge on finding a jab that works as soon as possible. Without a vaccine or a cure – neither of which yet exist – there is no way to stop Covid-19.
Ms Bingham’s comments come after England’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, suggested last month the most vulnerable people in England could start receiving the vaccine before the end of 2020, with a wider public roll-out next year.
Ms Bingham, who was a biotech investor before being drafted in to help develop a vaccine for coronavirus, said: ‘I think it’s a slim chance, but there is a chance, that we could have the Oxford vaccine before Christmas.’
The Oxford jab is currently in phase three trials, which are the final stage experiments done on a huge group of people to prove whether it works.
It has already proven to be safe in earlier tests on small groups and has now been given to more than 30,000 people in the UK, US, Brazil and South Africa.
Scientists will be looking at whether people who have had the jab have lower rates of positive tests than the general public, and whether they have significant levels of antibodies – immune substances equipped to fight the virus – in their blood in the weeks and months after receiving the vaccine.
If antibodies stay high, positive cases appear lower than in the non-vaccinated population, and participants have lower hospitalisation and death rates, the jab may be considered a success.
If this were to happen, the UK has already ordered 100million doses of the jab and Prime Minister Boris Johnson insists the country is first in line to get it.
Ms Bingham said that she felt ‘optimistic’ from the positive data seen so far.
She is also hoping to see late-stage data from another vaccine made by Pfizer and NBioTech, which is in similar stages of tests.
Others from the companies Valneva, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline have also been bought by Britain and could be successful.
‘If everything works, yes it’s possible we could get a vaccine this year but it’s most likely that it’ll be next year,’ Ms Bingham said.
She said the vaccines the UK had placed orders for were ‘spread across the ones that are most advanced through to the ones that we think are most likely to work and be safest.’
She added: ‘I am optimistic that we will see something – four of our six vaccines are now in phase three studies, and in each of them we’ve seen very positive data in the phase one and two clinical studies.
‘[This] shows that people who have received the vaccine do elicit a strong immune response, and that, and if you take the neutralising antibodies that are triggered those antibodies are able to kill live Covid virus.
‘So that is very positive and it’s as good as it can be at the moment.
‘And we now need to see whether or not those immune responses that we see translate into into protection.’
The vaccine expert said that it is unlikely that the first jab proven to work will be a silver bullet.
More likely is that it will offer a low level of protection which is able to stop people becoming seriously ill or dying, potentially reducing Covid-19 to something more like a flu or mild chest infection.
Any vaccine will likely require more than one dose, she said.
‘The ideal is that you get vaccinated and then you’re protected from infection for life,’ Ms Bingham said.
‘Then the other extreme, the other bookend as it were, would be it doesn’t stop infection, but just reduces the severity of symptoms.
‘And frankly, I think anything that that falls in that spectrum, would be a plus.’
She continued: ‘The vaccines we have for flu are about 50 per cent effective, and they are annual shots, based on the strain that emerges each summer which we then get vaccinated for the winter.
‘So, I think it would be fair to say, we shouldn’t assume it’s going to be for the moment, better than a flu vaccine.
‘Because that’s an equivalent – it’s a mutating virus and it’s a respiratory virus that gets in through the nose and eyes and respiratory tract.’