One in seven nurses has not yet received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, despite health and social care workers being among those at the top of the priority list.
According to a survey of 24,370 nursing staff by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), 15% have not had a vaccine and 78% still require a second dose.
Vaccination levels among those who work in the NHS were high (91%), but private healthcare providers were lagging behind with only 71% of staff having received at least one dose.
Regardless of where they worked, many temporary and agency staff were yet to receive a vaccine. Forty-four per cent of agency staff and 27% of temporary staff had not received a vaccine at all when the survey closed on 2 February.
More than half (55%) of those who had not had a vaccine are yet to be offered one, rising to 80% among agency staff and 70% among temporary staff.
The government has set a target date of having all frontline health and social care staff vaccinated by 15 February.
“Temporary and agency staff work in our communities and hospitals, with patients and the public – and they face the same level of risk as their NHS colleagues. Every effort must be made to reach all nursing staff to ensure the protection of patients and vulnerable people,” said RCN chief executive and general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair.
“The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation guidance is clear that the Covid-19 vaccine should be available to all health and social care staff. This is irrespective of where they are employed, including agency staff and those employed in the independent sectors.
“Employers are ultimately responsible for ensuring all their staff are able to access the vaccine. But the government must intervene now, as our members have proven this is clearly not the case.”
The survey asked those who had received their first dose of the vaccine what their plan was for their second dose: 28% said they did not know, rising to 46% of care home staff. More than half (54%) have an appointment scheduled within 12 weeks.
Of those who had been offered a vaccine but had not had one, 38% did not want to have a Covid-19 jab at the moment or were undecided and 12% did not want one at all. Four per cent attended a vaccination appointment to find there were not enough doses available for them.
The RCN said: “For health and care staff who decide that they do not want to have the vaccine, it is important to understand the reasons for this. To this end, we will continue to monitor the provision and uptake of the Covid-19 vaccination programme amongst our members. This will include a deeper analysis of the responses to our survey to understand whether there are any issues associated with specific groups, geographies, workforce settings or roles that need to be addressed.”