Two Thirds Of Agency Nursing Staff Still Waiting For Second Covid Jab

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A nurse fills a syringe with the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Llanelli, South Wales.

Nursing staff working outside the NHS are half as likely to have received a full coronavirus vaccine dose as their NHS colleagues, a new study reveals.

Just under a third of agency staff have been given both of their jabs, compared with two-thirds of permanent staff, according to the survey by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) of 20,000 members.

It also found that 5.6% of agency nursing professionals (one in 18) have not been offered a single dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, compared with only 1.3% of permanent staff (one in 77).

Frontline health and social care workers, who are second on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) priority list alongside people aged 80 and over, should have all received an invitation to receive a second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by now.

Vaccinations for people in the top two priority groups began in December. People next on the list, those aged over 75, were invited from early January. On February 14, the government said it had offered all 15m people in the top four priority groups their first dose.

Latest figures published by the government show more than 7.4m people have received their second dose and more than 32m people have received a first dose. More than 32m doses should be enough to cover everyone in the UK over the age of 50, all health and care workers and those with pre-existing conditions.

But the survey revealed that as of April 6, only 94% of nursing staff have actually received at least one dose of a vaccine and 62% had received both doses.

Nearly half (46%) of nursing staff outside of the NHS, including permanent employees in non-NHS settings such as care homes, were still waiting for their second jab, compared to just under 24% of those working in the NHS.

The most worrying finding was that about one in 50 members reported having not been offered a vaccine at all. Those included nursing staff who work in hospitals, care homes and in the community, the RCN said. 

The results were an improvement from a previous survey conducted in February, which found “a concerning disparity” between vaccination rates among NHS and non-NHS staff, with non-NHS staff accounting for 70% of the nursing staff who had yet to be vaccinated.

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A nurse is given the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Coventry on January 7.

Nursing staff not working directly for the NHS include professionals who are employed by agencies, or who work in local communities, in care homes and people’s own homes with some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Tthe RCN said more still needed to be done to ensure all nursing staff are given their jabs. “The gap has narrowed significantly yet those outside the NHS are still behind their NHS colleagues when it comes to receiving their second jab,” it warned.

The union has called on the government to ensure vaccines are offered to all nursing staff to stop them from “slipping through the net”.

Jude Diggins, RCN director of nursing, policy and public affairs, said: “The gap between NHS and non-NHS staff having their first dose has closed but there remains more work to be done to ensure all nursing staff, whatever setting they work in, are given the protection they need.

“Every effort must be made to prevent nursing staff from slipping through the net. Their safety has to be the government’s top concern and that cannot be compromised.”

The government must make sure people who should have already received their vaccinations do so “without delay”, Labour said following the RCN survey.

Shadow health minister Justin Madders said: “As restrictions begin to ease ministers must do all they can to ensure that those who should have received the vaccination already are given this without delay. 

“This should include targeted work to drive up vaccinations in all who work in the NHS, including agency and bank staff.” 

In response to HuffPost UK’s request to explain why some nursing staff have yet to be invited for vaccination, a DHSC spokesperson claimed: “We have visited every eligible care home in England, offered vaccines to all staff, and continue to work closely with the care sector, independent healthcare providers and local leaders, to maximise vaccination numbers and save thousands of lives.

“The vaccines are safe and effective and we want everyone to take up the offer of a jab when they’re called forward.”

They added: “Our vaccination programme is the biggest in NHS history, and so far our heroic health and care staff have helped administer more than 39m vaccines.”



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