Nurses and other health workers must be first in the queue for any Covid-19 vaccine that is discovered, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) has urged.
The race to develop a vaccine is moving with pace with the World Health Organization (WHO) currently tracking more than 160 candidates globally, 25 of which are in the clinical evaluation stage.
“This is the morally and ethically right thing to do for frontline healthcare workers”
The ICN has estimated that 8% of all Covid-19 cases globally are among healthcare workers, and the World Health Organization (WHO) believes it could be up to 10%.
Howard Catton (pictured above), chief executive of the ICN, which represents more than 130 national nurses’ associations worldwide, called on governments to prioritise nurses and their colleagues for vaccines.
“This is the morally and ethically right thing to do for frontline healthcare workers, but also to safeguard healthcare systems that are threatened by the ongoing pandemic, which has not yet reached its peak, and prepare for the threat of a second wave,” he warned.
He added that employers owed nurses a “duty of care” which involved keeping them safe at work and protecting them from any unnecessary risk.
However, the ICN was continuing to receive reports from its member associations of shortages of personal protective equipment, a shortfall of testing, and a lack of adequate mental health support.
The ongoing lack of systematic data on Covid-19 infection rates and deaths among health workers around the world, despite the ICN’s demand for action in this area, was also a cause for concern, noted Mr Catton.
“Governments must prioritise the protection of nurses and other healthcare workers so that they can get on with their job of caring for the sick and preventing the spread of the virus,” he added.
“It is the right thing to do and it will protect patients and help to safeguard the healthcare systems nurses work in, which are creaking under the strain of the pandemic.”
The intervention from the ICN follows calls made by the NHS Confederation after a team of researchers led by the University of Oxford moved a stepped closer to finding a Covid-19 vaccine.
The UK government has secured early access to 90 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines through investment in three leading candidates including the Oxford trial.
However, Kate Bingham, chair of the UK vaccine taskforce, urged cautious optimism over the developments.
“The fact remains we may never get a vaccine and if we do get one, we have to be prepared that it may not be a vaccine which prevents getting the virus, but rather one that reduces symptoms,” she warned last week.