HIQA advises NPHET on policies for healthcare personnel who do not avail of COVID-19 vaccination

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has published a number of documents it has submitted to the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to help inform Ireland’s response to COVID-19.

HIQA has advised NPHET on developing policy for healthcare personnel (including both healthcare workers and frontline health administrative staff) who do not avail of COVID-19 vaccination. This advice was informed by a review of international policy and guidance, published today, as well as input from its COVID-19 Expert Advisory Group.

Dr Máirín Ryan, HIQA’s Deputy CEO and Director of Health Technology Assessment, said: “We are encouraging all healthcare personnel to avail of COVID-19 vaccination as soon as they are eligible. The past year has been very challenging for healthcare personnel and we have advised NPHET that any policy introduced regarding COVID-19 vaccination should be built on a model of encouragement and support.”

HIQA has advised that policies developed and enacted should be based on the ‘intervention ladder’ principle. This means that interventions are progressive, and for example, could start with providing evidence-based information and subsequently, utilise one-to-one conversations, testing and/or additional PPE. Higher rungs of this policy ladder may involve redeployment to a lower risk area. Mandatory vaccination would sit at the top of the ladder as the most intrusive step.

Dr Ryan continued: “As COVID-19 vaccination programmes progress, we expect that more countries will bring out policy and guidance regarding unvaccinated healthcare personnel. At the time of our review, only the UK had published guidance on this topic and we noted only one country, Italy, had introduced a national policy of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for all healthcare workers. It is vital that vaccine policy considers issues around data collection, legality and ethics as well as the range of mitigation strategies available to protect those availing of, and working in the health service.”

HIQA has also updated its advice to NPHET on the minimum age for face mask wearing. The latest advice recommends no change in the minimum age for mask use in the community setting.

This advice was based on the latest information and evidence, in particular, the recent Irish epidemiological data, which offered reassurances that the package of mitigation measures currently in place in primary schools has been effective at minimising transmission. This advice will be reviewed and updated should the evidence indicate a change in the epidemiological situation.

HIQA has also updated its evidence summary and advice on the duration of immunity (protection from reinfection) following SARS-CoV-2 infection. Six new reinfection studies were identified. HIQA has advised NPHET that no change is required to the duration of presumptive immunity following natural infection (which is currently six months post-infection). However, as the body of evidence is rapidly expanding, HIQA advises continued review of the data.

You can find these documents from the links at the top of the page.

Further information:
Marty Whelan, Head of Communications & Stakeholder Engagement
01 814 7480/085 805 5202, mwhelan@hiqa.ie

Notes to Editor:

  • HIQA has today published the following documents to inform NPHET’s response to COVID-19:
    • Advice to the National Public Health Emergency Team: Policies relating to healthcare personnel who do not avail of COVID-19 vaccination.
    • Advice to the National Public Health Emergency Team: Reduction of the minimum age for the application of mask wearing requirements and recommendations - Update.
    • Advice to the National Public Health Emergency Team: Duration of immunity (and protection from reinfection) following SARS-CoV-2 infection – Update.
    • An international review: Policies relating to healthcare personnel who do not avail of COVID-19 vaccination.
    • Evidence summary on the duration of immunity (protection from reinfection) following SARS-CoV-2 infection.  
  • Vaccination of healthcare personnel against COVID-19 is viewed as critical in ensuring the health and safety of this essential workforce, preventing patients from contracting SARS-CoV-2, and protecting vital healthcare capacity.
  • Current guidance states that children over the age of 13 years, and those in secondary school, should follow adult guidance for face mask usage. Younger children can choose to wear a mask or be requested to do so by a healthcare professional.
  • At present, the presumptive immunity post-infection lasts six months. You can find out more about recovery post-COVID-19 infection here.
  • HIQA provides evidence-based advice to NPHET to inform public health policy, advice and practice in the context of COVID-19. HIQA’s advice is informed by research evidence developed by HIQA’s COVID-19 Evidence Synthesis Team.
  • This advice to NPHET is developed with expert input from HIQA’s COVID-19 Expert Advisory Group. HIQA’s COVID-19 Expert Advisory Group is a multidisciplinary group, comprising nominated representatives from the relevant public health and clinical specialties, methodology experts, and public representation.
  • The topics HIQA researches are outlined and prioritised by NPHET to ensure rapid access to the best available evidence relevant to the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.