People refusing Covid jabs should not work in social care, minister suggests

Remarks by Helen Whately come amid consultation on mandatory vaccines for frontline health staff

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Last modified on Thu 9 Sep 2021 03.24 EDT

A government minister has suggested that people who refuse to get vaccinated against coronavirus should not work in social care.

Speaking on Sky News, the minister for care, Helen Whately, said care homes had been hit particularly hard by Covid, and added: “The reality is that one of the best ways we can protect people living in care homes is through making sure that staff are vaccinated.”

Asked whether she was concerned that the vacancies in social care would increase by mandating that workers must be jabbed, she said: “The big question has to be … if you don’t want to get vaccinated, how can you continue, how can it be right to continue, to look after people who are really vulnerable from Covid?”

It came as healthcare staff, patients and their families were being encouraged to take part in a consultation launched on Thursday on plans to mandate Covid-19 and flu vaccinations for frontline health and care staff.

The six-week consultation process will take views on whether vaccine requirements should apply for health and wider social care workers – those in contact with patients and people receiving care.

It would mean only those who are fully vaccinated, unless medically exempt, could be deployed to deliver health and care services.

The government previously said all staff in registered care homes in England must be vaccinated against Covid-19 from 11 November, unless medically exempt.

Critics of compulsory vaccinations for care workers have claimed the policy would lead to many leaving their jobs at a time when vacancies are at a staggering 120,000.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) Social Care Working Group has already advised the overlap between the sectors makes a strong scientific case for there to be similar approaches to vaccination.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the consultation would focus on the proposals, their scope, and any potential impact mandating vaccines could have on staffing and safety such as reducing staff sickness absence.

The process will also seek views on whether flu vaccines should be a requirement for health and care workers.

According to the DHSC, about 92% of NHS trust staff have received one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 88% of staff have received both doses.

However, the DHSC says new data shows uptake rates between NHS trusts can vary from about 78% to 94% for both doses.

National flu vaccination rates in the health service have increased from 14% in 2002 to 76% last year. But in some settings, rates are as low as 53%.

The health secretary, Sajid Javid, urged all health and social care staff to be vaccinated, regardless of the outcome of the consultation.

He said: “We will consider the responses to the consultation carefully but, whatever happens, I urge the small minority of NHS staff who have not yet been jabbed to consider getting vaccinated – for their own health as well as those around them.”

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