Should care home staff be forced to have covid vaccine?


Care home staff could be forced to get the Covid-19 jab before they are allowed to work – with the latest figures showing nearly 2,000 have yet to be vaccinated in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.

The government has launched a five-week consultation on whether vaccination should be made a ‘condition of deployment’ for care home workers, due to take-up rates still lagging behind other priority groups.

In Stoke-on-Trent, NHS figures show that 2,432 out of 3,003 eligible care home workers have had at least one dose of the vaccine, which equates to 81 per cent.

Across Staffordshire the rate is 85.2 per cent, with 7,779 out of 9,132 care home workers vaccinated.

Both Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire are doing better than England as a whole, which has a vaccination rate of 79.4 per cent.

Scientists say a rates of 80 per cent among staff, and 90 per cent among residents, are needed to provide a minimum level of protection against outbreaks of Covid-19.

Only 53 per cent of older adult care homes in England have reached this threshold, despite care staff being among the nine priority groups for vaccination. While all people in the priority groups have now been offered a jab, there remains some ‘vaccine hesistancy’ among some care workers.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Older people living in care homes are most at risk of suffering serious consequences of Covid-19 and we have seen the grave effects the virus has had on this group.

“Making vaccines a condition of deployment is something many care homes have called for, to help them provide greater protection for staff and residents in older people’s care homes and so save lives.



Home care assistant with elderly woman

“The vaccine is already preventing deaths and is our route out of this pandemic. We have a duty of care to those most vulnerable to COVID-19, so it is right we consider all options to keep people safe.”

Andy Day, co-ordinator of North Staffs Pensioners’ Convention, believes vaccination should be mandatory for social care staff – but only as part of wider reforms.

He says the relatively low take-up of the vaccine is partly due to the fragmented nature of the care sector, which has allowed standards to slip.

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Mr Day said: “I think vaccination should be a condition of employment for care workers, both to protect them and the people they care for.

“But there is the wider issue of reforming the whole care sector. At the moment many care staff work very long hours for little pay, and that may be part of the reason why some aren’t getting vaccinated.

“We saw the outbreaks in care homes earlier in the pandemic, and that happened because social care is separate to the NHS.



Andy Day, of North Staffordshire Pensioners Convention

“The way to solve this issue is by reforming the care sector and raising professional standards. In the short term that will involve supporting workers to get the vaccine, with time off work and help with transport. In the long term it will mean creating a national care system.”

Nadra Ahmed, executive chairman of the National Care Association, which represents registered care providers, gave the consultation a cautious welcome.

She said: “Our vision, as responsible providers, would always be to mitigate any and all risk to our residents and staff, and so we welcome the consultation, bearing in mind that our workforce haver done an exceptional job since the outset of this pandemic despite the barriers and challenges of PPE shortages, lack of testing capacity, poor vaccine availability until the end of January and their own personal anxieties.

“It is disappointing to note that the government have singled out care workers despite the fact that our colleagues in the NHS also care for vulnerable citizens in acute settings.”

But Unison has criticised the proposals for making vaccinations mandatory for care staff, saying such an approach would be “heavy-handed and aggressive”.

Unison senior national social care officer Gavin Edwards said: “Time would be much better spent encouraging staff and making it as easy as possible for them to have their jabs. Attempting to force staff to comply with threats to their livelihoods is just plain wrong and won’t work either.”

The consultation will run until 11.45pm on May 21. To take part, visit https://consultations.dhsc.gov.uk/making-vaccination-a-condition-of-deployment-in-older-adult-care-homes

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