COVID-19: Vaccinations to be made compulsory for care home staff and looked at for NHS workers – Asia Despatch

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Coronavirus vaccinations will be made compulsory for care home staff, Matt Hancock has confirmed.

The government is also consulting on implementing the same policy for NHS workers, he said.

The health secretary told MPs in the Commons on Wednesday: “After careful consultation we’ve decided to take this proposal forward to protect residents.

“The vast majority of staff in care homes are already vaccinated but not all, and we know that the vaccine not only protects you but protects those around you.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaks in the House of Commons
Matt Hancock said the government will also consult on mandatory vaccinations for those in domiciliary care and on the NHS

“Therefore we will be taking forward the measures to ensure the mandation as a condition of deployment for staff in care homes and we will consult on the same approach in the NHS in order to save lives and protect patients from disease.”

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A consultation will also be launched into whether NHS workers should be required to get a COVID-19.

The move comes as ministers look to reduce the spread of coronavirus in care homes and hospitals by staff who are infected as cases of the Delta variant are rising in the community.

There have been more than 40,000 deaths involving COVID in care homes in England during the pandemic to date.

Concerns have been raised about the uptake of the vaccine from those working in the care sector, with the latest figures suggesting more than 50,000 carers remain unvaccinated.

Around 1.5 million people work in social care in England.

Latest NHS figures, up to 6 June, show that 84% of staff in older adult care homes in England have had one jab, while almost 69% have two doses.

Staff are overwhelmed at Northfield nursing home in Sheffield.
Around 1.5 million people work in social care in England

But in the east London borough of Hackney, for example, only 66.7% of staff in older adult care homes have received their first inoculation, while 58.6% have had two jabs.

According to research published last month by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, black African and mixed black African staff are almost twice as likely to decline a jab as white British and white Irish participants.

Reasons cited include concerns about a lack of research and distrust in the vaccines, healthcare providers, and policymakers.

Providers and representatives from the care sector are understood to have met officials from the Department of Health and Social Care at midday on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Under the proposals, care home workers will have 16 weeks to take up the offer of the jab or face losing their roles.

But the policy change is likely to prove controversial.

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A group of MPs is warning many care providers in England are living hand to mouth, due to insufficient funding.

Some legal experts have previously suggested that compulsory vaccination could be challenged as a breach of European human rights law or equalities legislation.

The GMB union has claimed that more than a third of carers would consider quitting if vaccinations become compulsory.

Dr Susan Hopkins, strategic response director for COVID-19 at Public Health England, said there are “pros and cons to any debate on mandatory vaccination”, telling MPs that one downside could be that “people may vote with their feet, and not want to have the vaccine, and therefore not work in a care home, and that could lead to staff supply issues in care homes”.

She told the Science and Technology Committee: “I will remain a little bit concerned that we will have shortages of care staff once the mandate has come in, but I’m sure that the vast majority of care workers do want to do the right thing and get vaccinated to protect the elderly under their care.”

Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group (ICG) which represents care homes in Yorkshire, said recruitment was “always challenging” before coronavirus hit and “is becoming more critical now”.

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Earlier, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said mandatory jabs for care workers were being considered

“If this goes ahead and is compulsory then I think it will put people off coming into the service. That’s one problem,” he said.

“The second problem is people who are already working in the service who might not want the vaccine. We are so stretched for frontline staff.

“It sounds easy to redeploy them but it isn’t easy to replace them when you redeploy them. And I think people will be put off.”

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