Mutual aid and the transfer of COVID-19 vaccines

An overview of NHS England and NHS Improvement guidance on mutual aid and the transfer of COVID-19 vaccines.
Julia Swift

28 January 2021

On 22 January, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) issued guidance regarding mutual aid and the transfer of vaccines. It supplements an earlier letter concerning the movement of the AstraZeneca vaccine and a position statement concerning the handling of punctured vials. This briefing from the PCN Network provides an overview of the key points

Key points

  • PCN groupings can move the AstraZeneca vaccine between member practices.
  • PCN groupings can transfer the vaccine where contractual arrangements are in place, for example third parties joining the PCN via collaboration agreements or delivery sub-contractors.
  • With these in place, the originating PCN retains responsibility for governance and control of the vaccines to be administered at all times, for all approved vaccines.
  • Transfer within an NHS trust is permitted by SOP terms and temporary authorisation.
  • NHSEI can transfer vaccines between organisations to rebalance stock.
  • Sites are expected to use their allocated vaccines to vaccinate the applicable JCVI cohorts as soon
    as possible.
  • Sites should maintain a standby list of applicable JCVI cohorts to notify when there is a surplus.
  • Sites must not book in patients for the day of vaccine delivery unless there is sufficient existing stock to meet the day’s demand. Requests for mutual aid that ignore this advice will be denied.
  • Mutual aid covers all vaccine transfers outside of PCN Groupings and their subcontractors/collaborators, outside of NHS trusts, and transfers not directed by NHSEI.
  • Mutual aid is the option of last resort and is only permitted under specific criteria:
    • Likely to be significant vaccine wastage through no fault of the applicant party; or
    • Failure of delivery/suitability for administration where the applicant had been formally notified
      of the delivery; or
    • Unforeseen equipment failures rendering the vaccine unsuitable
  • To request mutual aid:
    • Lead responsible/chief pharmacists from party organisations must discuss and agree the
    • A request can only be made via the Annex A form in the guidance.
    • The regional director of commissioning and the regional chief pharmacist will then either support or deny the request.
    • If approved, send the form to the Regional Vaccines Operation Centre (RVOC) (page 8 of the guidance) for informing NHSEI’s National Vaccine Operation Centre (NVOC) for logging
      with the central vaccines allocation team.
    • RVOC will notify the regional director of commissioning and regional chief pharmacist of agreed and completed transfers.
    • The regional director of commissioning and the chief pharmacist are responsible for ensuring appropriate governance arrangements are in place.