COVID vaccine roll-out must not involve private firms

There must be no repeat of test and trace foul-ups

The government must ensure the roll-out of any Covid-19 vaccine is managed entirely by the NHS and public bodies, and not allow the involvement of private firms and the use of unqualified staff, says UNISON today (Friday).

In its response to a consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care on changes to medicine regulations, the union has raised concerns about allowing non-healthcare professionals to administer any vaccine.

Millions of people will need to be protected from coronavirus once a vaccine is approved. It’s vital that any vaccination programme is delivered and supervised by healthcare professionals, says UNISON.

There should be no cutting corners by allowing private firms to use staff with little training who could create added dangers, the union warns.

UNISON is also calling for some highly experienced groups such as operating department practitioners (ODPs) to be added to the list of health professionals who can administer vaccines.

UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “The government’s use of private companies to run test and trace has been a disaster. Any more mistakes on that scale will simply allow the virus to continue to spread.

“Ministers can’t fail the nation again, they must do things differently and keep any programme within the NHS and public health bodies.

“The public needs total confidence that any vaccine is going to be safely given, and any follow-up managed properly by the NHS.

“At the start of the pandemic, thousands of ex-health workers offered to come back to the NHS and help in its hour of need. But some were never contacted.

“Now is the time to ensure their expertise is put to good use in administering any vaccine. The government should be planning for this now to avoid any repeat of the test and trace shambles.

“In the meantime, ministers should also be doing all they can to ensure there’s a high uptake of the flu jab and that it’s widely available to minimise the impact on the NHS over the next few months.”

Notes to editors
– UNISON’s submission to the consultation can be viewed here.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

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