The government has said that frontline healthcare staff must receive compulsory vaccinations in a recent mandate.
Under the terms of the announcement, workers are expected to have until April the 1st 2022 to get double jabbed. The move comes at a time when estimates suggest that more than 100,000 NHS workers are still unvaccinated.
The government’s decision has been made in the wake of a consultation that was set up to consider whether COVID and flu jabs should be a mandatory requirement for NHS staff and care workers who are in direct contact with patients.
The Secretary of State for Health, Sajid Javid, told MPs that the consultation indicated there was broad support for the vaccination to become a condition of employment. In a speech to the House of Commons, Mr Javid said: ‘We must avoid preventable harm and protect patients in the NHS, protect colleagues in the NHS and of course protect the NHS itself.’
The health secretary said that the condition would not be applicable until 12 weeks after parliamentary approval, giving time for workforce planners and NHS workers to get vaccinated without causing major disruption to services.
Mr Javid also answered some critics by trying to allay fears that the new rules would result in a wave of blaming and shaming across the service:
‘Allow me to be clear that no-one in the NHS or care that is currently unvaccinated should be scapegoated, singled out or shamed.
‘That would be totally unacceptable. This is about supporting them to make a positive choice to protect vulnerable people, to protect their colleagues. And of course to protect themselves.’
The Workers Union Says…
Compulsory vaccination is a complex and often emotionally-charged subject that is unlikely to fade away in the aftermath of this latest decision. On the one hand, there’s the laudable notion that individual liberty is the golden thread that runs through our constitution. On the other there’s the understandable desire on the part of government to try and protect as many as people as possible from this rapacious, merciless virus.
The truth is that whatever decision politicians arrived at, someone, somewhere was going to feel aggrieved. In the end, the balance was probably decided by the simple truth that patients are, themselves, victims of disease and any additional threat to their wellbeing should be controlled as far as is humanly possible.
In making this choice, however, there may be consequences that present an equally formidable challenge for the NHS over the winter months. Workers could leave their jobs rather than submit to vaccination. That, in turn may lead to crucial shortages at a time when the service is already creaking at the seams.
On that basis, we urge the government to build on their good work by proceeding slowly and liaising with trusts to engage on these issues in a way that preserves the dignity and integrity of the service, as well as that of affected workers.
The Workers Union – fighting for social justice, fighting for you