The government is considering suspending compulsory jabs for unvaccinated NHS healthcare workers.
Sources told the i newspaper that the dramatic change in policy is being driven by pressure from MPs and clinicians, amid fear that the NHS could lose up to 70,000 members of staff.
The NHS jab rules are due to come into effect on the first of April. They state that frontline NHS workers must be double-jabbed by the beginning of the second quarter or they will be dismissed. Those staff who have not received a first jab by the 3rd of February will not be eligible for a second jab in time to beat the April cut off date.
After the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that plan B restrictions in England would be rolled back from last Wednesday, several members of his own party laid down the gauntlet to the cabinet. Conservative MP for South West Wiltshire, Dr Andrew Murrison, spoke of ‘leaked advice’ sent from government officials to ministers, which claimed that the double jab requirement was ‘neither rational or proportionate given what we know about Omicron, and its behaviour.’
According to the i newspaper, the leak came from a document seen by the Guardian and prepared by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), which advised ministers that there is evidence that two doses of the vaccine provides only 32 percent effectiveness against Omicron – a figure that declines to 0 after 20 weeks. At the same time Omicron is associated with a substantially smaller risk of hospitalisation.
The document says: ‘“The low VE [vaccine effectiveness] against infection (and consequently effect on transmission) plus the lower risk posed by Omicron brings into question both the rationality of the VCOD2 policy and its proportionality and makes the case for vaccination requirement weaker than when [ministers] decided on the policy.’
The Workers Union Says…
If a week is a long time in politics, it is an entire epoch in the life of a virus. What we thought we knew about Omicron has been challenged, and that challenge has raised important questions.
What we can say with some sense of certainty, is that Omicron has fewer malign effects than its variant cousins. This does not mean that catching it is a free pass; we are still talking about a dangerous virus with unpredictable effects. But there is now a strong case for weighing up the evidence carefully before pulling the trigger on so many hard-working, dedicated NHS workers.