The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine: what is it and when will nurses get it?

The RCN says nurses will have a key role in delivering the COVID-19 vaccine

The RCN says nurses will have a key role in delivering the COVID-19 vaccine

A vial of the approved Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
Picture: Alamy

Nurses and nursing students will be among the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine being rolled out across the UK from next week.

The UK’s independent regulator for vaccines, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), recommended the government approve the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Nurses at forefront of delivering COVID-19 vaccine

Responding to the news, RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said nurses would be at the forefront of delivering the vaccine.

‘Nursing staff, who have huge experience in vaccination programmes, will be asked to play a key role in the vaccine roll-out,’ she said.

Professor Kinnair added that as vaccine plans are developed, they should include how normal services will be affected by nurses taking on COVID-19 vaccination duties.

‘It is essential these plans include details on maintaining day-to-day heath and care services for all those that need them.’

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine explained

What is the vaccine and how effective is it?

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine exploits mRNA or messenger ribonucleic acid, part of a virus’s genetic code. The mRNA is responsible for the creation of COVID-19 spike proteins in cells – when the vaccine is administered it triggers a response from the body’s immune system.

Data from the vaccine trials suggest an efficacy of 95%.

People receiving this vaccine need two doses 21 days apart.

When will nurses get it?

The vaccine will be available for use across the UK from next week.

The independent advisory committee, Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises the government, has published guidance on who should get the vaccine first.

The first two groups to receive the vaccine are:

  • Care home residents and carers
  • People aged 80 and over, and front-line health and social care workers, including nursing students and apprentices

Care home workers and front-line staff with underlying health conditions are considered a high priority in this group.

Priority is then based on age and clinical vulnerability, with the last group being people aged 50 years and over.

How and where will staff be vaccinated?

Further details on the vaccination programme have not been released.

Previously, the NHS Nightingale Hospitals have been earmarked as sites for mass vaccination clinics.

NHS leaders have also said there will be ‘roving teams’ deployed to vaccinate care home residents and workers.

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