No jab, no job: Vaccines set to become mandatory for care home staff
By Integrated Care Journal-
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that Covid-19 vaccinations will now be compulsory for workers in care homes throughout England.
Announcing the implementation of these measures as a “sensible and reasonable step,” and mentioning plans to consult the possibility of extending such regulations to the NHS, Hancock stated that workers will now have 16 weeks to receive both jabs after the regulations have been given parliamentary approval. Those who do not may find themselves redeployed away from front-line care, or out of a job entirely.
While these measures may seem reasonable given the UK’s goal to reach zero transmissions, care organisations have long warned of the danger of mandatory vaccinations – stating that such regulations will only create further difficulties for an industry that already struggles with recruitment.
The British Medical Association (BMA), for instance, has warned that compulsion is “a blunt instrument that carries its own risks,” and Dr Susan Hopkins (strategic response director for Covid-19 at Public Health England) has stated that “people may vote with their feet, and not want to have the vaccine, and therefore not work in a care home. ” Moreover, as the BMA has pointed out, even though “some healthcare workers are already required to be immunised against certain conditions to work in certain areas, any specific proposal for the compulsory requirement for all staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19 would raise new ethical and legal implications. ”
As it stands, the UK government is acting on the advice of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). The DHSC, shortly after its launch in April of this year, announced that even though all eligible care homes had been offered the vaccine, around 47 per cent of English care homes for older people had over 1/5 of its staff members unvaccinated. Given this startling statistic, the measures being taken by the central government are clearly not entirely unreasonable.
However, it is also important to note that many within the sector have stated that those reluctant to receive their jab tend to have unfounded concerns over safety (particularly, within the young and largely female workforce, over fertility). These concerns, which are ultimately rooted in a deep distrust of central authority, are not likely to be assuaged by making vaccinations mandatory.
By the health secretary’s own admission, the “vast majority of staff in care homes” have taken the vaccine – and after 190,033 people received a first jab on Tuesday, the national total of those with at least one dose is now more than 42 million (or 79.8 per cent of adults). This would seem to indicate that earlier programs of vaccine education have worked to at least some degree. Given this (and the persistent problem of recruitment within social care) it would appear that while mandating of vaccines is well-intentioned, doubling down on education efforts could achieve a similar effect without creating quite as much of a headache.