Three coronavirus vaccines, made by Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna have received authorisation and are being rolled out to frontline health and care workers and vulnerable patient groups. This clearly includes all dietitians in frontline roles. 

We are strongly encouraging all BDA members working in patient-facing roles who are offered a COVID-19 vaccine to take it if they can. Large-scale immunisation is a vital step in the effort to control the COVID-19 pandemic and save lives.

This effort starts with you. As a healthcare worker on the frontlines of patient care, you have a higher risk of contracting the virus. Once infected, you are able to pass the disease on to family, friends, colleagues and patients, who may be more vulnerable to the effects of the disease.

UPDATE: 12 February 2021

Approaches in each nation

  • In England all eligible frontline health or social care workers can now book their vaccine through the National Booking Service. You are advised to try online booking first but if this is not possible, they can phone 119 free of charge, 7am to 11pm, 7 days a week.
  • In Northern Ireland, information has been provided on how you can access a vaccine if working in private practice that should have been communicated to you. Please contact us if you have not received such a notification and we can pass on a link. 
  • In Scotland a letter has been circulated with details on how you can contact your local health board to arrange a vaccine. Although dietitians are not specifically mentioned, you are eligible for a vaccine if you work in a patient-facing role. 
  • In Wales independent and private frontline staff will be vaccinated alongside NHS colleagues. Health boards should be in touch with you directly, and are using HCPC registration lists to make contact. Please let us know if you feel you have been missed. 

On this page we cover:

Why it’s important to get your COVID-19 vaccination

If you’re a frontline worker, you are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 at work. Dietitians, dietetic support workers, assistant practitioners and dietetic students working directly with patients are at much higher risk of repeated exposure to the infection.

Catching COVID-19 can be serious and may lead to long term complications. These are more common in older staff or those with underlying clinical risk factors.

Protect those around you. You can have COVID-19 without any symptoms and pass it on to family, friends, colleagues and patients, many of whom may be at increased risk from coronavirus. Being healthy doesn’t reduce your risk of catching COVID-19 or passing it on.

Learn more about the vaccines and why is it so important for frontline healthcare workers.

How effective are the COVID-19 vaccines?


The data produced in the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trials indicates that it was shown to be 95% effective at preventing illness from COVID-19 in final results from its phase 3 trial, which also showed it to have a similar efficacy profile across all age ranges, including older people, and ethnic minority groups (1 - see references below).

The vaccine has been reported to be effective, and no safety concerns were seen in studies of more than 20,000 people.


The data produced in the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine trails indicates that the vaccine is 70.4% effective in preventing illness from COVID-19 in its phase 3 trial (5).


Data produced from the Moderna phase three trials indicates that it is 94.5% effective. This was based on trials involving over 30,000 US participants, including 7000 aged over 65 and 5000 under 65 with high risk chronic diseases. More than one third (37%) of the trial participants are non-white, with 6000 participants identifying as Hispanic and more than 3000 identifying as black.(6)

Are there possible side effects?

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them. Even if you do have symptoms after the first dose, you still need to have the second dose. Although you may get some protection from the first dose, having the second dose is recommended in order to give you the best protection against the virus.

Very common side effects include:

  • as is typical for many vaccines, having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1-2 days after the vaccine
  • feeling tired
  • headache
  • general aches, or mild flu like symptoms

Learn more about the potential side effects.

Can I catch COVID-19 from the vaccine?

You cannot catch COVID-19 from the vaccine but it is possible to have caught COVID-19 and not realise you have the symptoms until after your vaccination appointment. You should continue to have the regular screening tests that your employer arranges.

If you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19, stay at home and arrange to have a test. Further information on symptoms is available on NHS.UK.

These vaccines have been approved very quickly, are they safe?

The severity of the pandemic, and its effect on everyday life around the globe has afforded significant funding and resources which have allowed vaccines to be developed and tested in record time. Much of the time usually spent applying and waiting for further funding, for example, was eliminated from the process entirely.

MHRA report having undertaken a thorough assessment of the safety and efficacy data provided on the vaccines. The vaccines have achieved approval from the independent Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency under a "temporary authorisation for emergency use".

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has undergone trials involving over 40,000 people and been shown to be safe.  The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has undergone safety trials involving over 23,000 people and shown to be safe. The Moderna vaccines has undergone safety trials involving more than 30,000 people. Further trials are continuing, and the MHRA continues to monitor the production and use of both vaccines.

All vaccine manufacturers have had to evidence that they have adhered to strict rules for the provision of vaccine, including meeting guidelines on good laboratory practice, clinical trial regulations and being subject to inspection by the MHRA (2). The MHRA have provided information for healthcare professionals that includes information on the studies that have been undertaken and recommended protocols for use for both vaccines:

Am I allowed to refuse the vaccine?

If the vaccine is not clinically contra-indicated for you, and you work directly with patients, we strongly encourage you to consider having the COVID-19 vaccine when it is offered to you. However, you are not compelled to do so.

No NHS worker should suffer detriment at work if they are unable or unwilling to have the vaccine. If you will not be having the vaccine, you should speak to your employer about other ways to reduce your risk of COVID-19. They should work with you to keep you safe without detriment to you. For example, you may be moved to lower-risk duties, away from the frontline, without any impact on your pay.
If you believe you are suffering detriment due to refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, you can contact your local TU rep or our office on 0121 200 8080.

BAME frontline workers

Throughout this pandemic black, Asian and ethnic minority people have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and its complications(3). This has been seen just as clearly amongst BAME frontline workers, particularly in health and social care.

Recent research has shown that there is a greater concern about vaccines amongst black, Asian and other ethnic minority groups, for a number of understandable reasons(4). However, the studies carried out so far show these vaccines to be safe for all ethnic groups and we would like to reassure all BDA members that the joint NHS trade unions support the vaccination programme. We therefore encourage all BDA members to have the vaccine when it is offered to them.

Private and third sector health and care staff, volunteers and students

The government's official COVID-19 guidance, known as the COVID-19 green book, makes clear that anyone working in a frontline health or care role, regardless of who for or in what capacity, is eligible for a vaccine. This includes those working in private practice:

"Staff involved in direct patient care [...] should also include those working in independent, voluntary and non-standard healthcare settings such as hospices, and community-based mental health or addiction services. Temporary staff, including those working in the COVID-19 vaccination programme, students, trainees and volunteers who are working with patients must also be included."

Recent Government advice makes it clear that hospital vaccination hubs are expected to be the default provider of vaccines to all health and care staff, including private and the third sector, as well as bank or temporary staff. The BDA have received reassurances from government that guidance is being developed to clarify how private practitioners can access the vaccine and demonstrate their eligibility. We will share this as soon as it is available. 

Read the full chapter 14a of the COVID-19 green book here.

Pregnancy & breastfeeding

Can I get the vaccines if I am pregnant, breastfeeding or think I could be?

Evidence for all the vaccines as it relates to pregnancy and breastfeeding are fast moving. We would recommend that you remain up to date with the latest Government guidance on vaccination during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

What this means for you at work

No NHS worker should suffer detriment at work if they are unable or unwilling to have the vaccine. Pregnancy is also a characteristic protected under the Equality Act.

If you will not be having the vaccine, you should speak to your employer about other ways to reduce your risk of COVID-19. They should work with you to keep you safe without detriment to you. For example, you may be moved to lower-risk duties without any impact on your pay.

If you are pregnant or think you could be, you are advised not to have the vaccine until you are sure you are not pregnant. If you have any issues at work with regards to this, you can contact your local TU rep or our office on 0121 200 8080.

New Scientist have written a useful summary of up to date information about the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.