Health Care Assistants and Shingles Vaccinations

This week I have received many enquiries regarding Health Care Assistants (HCA’s) and Shingles vaccination (Zostavax) so I thought I would discuss this here. 

As you all probably know the role of the HCA has increased and developed rapidly over the past few years and I have written in my first blog (July 2014) regarding the roles they may develop.  Regarding vaccinations and Immunisations its always just been influenza and Pneumococcal. However the RCN have recently stated the following: 

“It would not be in the best interest of the patient for them to be passed to a different health professional for administration of the shingles vaccine, as this could raise unnecessary concerns about the vaccine or the HCSW’s competence’.

 RCN position on HCSWs administering specific vaccinations, given as part of the routine national schedule (RCN 2014)

So that leaves us with some questions.

  1. Shingles (Zostavax) is a live vaccine
  2. Zostavax is limited in age range 70, 78, 79 year olds this year
  3. Zostavax is given subcutaneously (S/C)
  4. Zostavax has to be drawn up, mixed with the diluent and then given

So its more complicated than just opening up a pack of pre filled syringes and being able to administer relatively quickly and  easily. Influenza and Pneumococcal vaccines come in pre filled packs.  Zostavax does not. 

My view is that I am sure some HCA’s are capable of giving this vaccination however, I want to add caution. Please consider the following: 

  1. HCA’s will need competence assessed and mentored throughout this process to be able to administer the vaccine competently. They will need to be signed off by a RGN or GP
  2. The practice manager and clinical lead will need to check with the relevant companies/organisations whether they will indemnify HCA’s to give this vaccine
  3. They will need this in writing

My final caution is that the Health Care Assistants giving any immunisation should be adequately trained, be working in the HCA role for at least 2 years and have completed or be working towards level 3 study. It is unacceptable in my view to have a Health care Assistant working in a dual role. One minute and Health Care Assistant and the next a receptionist is not good enough. Following the HPA guidance on Health Care Support Workers and vaccinations is essential. 


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