The government is set to pass new legislation to make COVID jabs for care home workers compulsory.
The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, announced that workers will have 4 months from the time the measures are approved to get themselves vaccinated. If they refuse, they could be moved away from roles that involve contact with residents or lose their jobs.
Professionals such as beauticians, external healthcare staff and contractors will also have to be vaccinated before they can work in a care home setting.
Mr Hancock described the move as a ‘sensible and reasonable step’ and said that vaccination protects individuals and those around them. He also said that while most people working in care homes had been vaccinated, there still remained a number who have yet to get the jab.
The move is widely seen as a response to the government’s concerns about a relatively low take up of the vaccine in London.
Meanwhile, major players in the care sector warned that compulsory vaccination risks making a significant impact on the recruitment and retention of staff. They argue that the sector already faces high levels of staff turnover, and any moves to force people to do something that they may have ethical reasons for rejecting could be very damaging.
Public Health England’s strategic response director for COVID-19, Dr Susan Hopkins said 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.’
At the same time the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments have said that they have no plans to make vaccination of care staff compulsory.
The Workers Union on Compulsory Vaccinations
Any decision to remove freedom of choice from people cannot be allowed to pass without scrutiny. Freedom, is after all, the currency of exchange that has enabled us to make this great nation a modern, thriving place built on the principles of democracy and free enterprise.
But even the sternest critics of government policy would do well to recognise that sometimes, in extreme circumstances, legislators must take a different approach.
This has never been more obvious than in the case of care home staff. The people they look after are often sick and vulnerable. Introducing COVID into such environments risks disaster – disaster that can be ameliorated by taking the jab.
The government must then work on hearts and minds as well as pressure by statute. People must fully understand the benefits of taking this step – both for themselves and for others and see it as a positive move towards eradicating the threat of COVID for current and future generations.
The Workers Union – fighting for social justice, fighting for you