Over 50,000 people have signed a petition against proposals by the government to make the Covid-19 vaccine mandatory for care home workers.
The petition which is live until September 19 says “ We, the people, demand that health and social care workers are given the right to exercise free will in relation to any medical procedure and so to be able to refuse to take the covid 19 vaccination without fear of facing discrimination at work or in wider society.”
The government announced last week that everyone working In care homes must be fully vaccinated under new laws.
The new legislation means from October – subject to parliamentary approval and a subsequent 16 week grace period – anyone working in a CQC-registered care home in England for residents requiring nursing or personal care must have two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine unless they have a medical exemption, anwill apply to all workers employed directly by the care home or care home provider (on a full-time or part-time basis), those employed by an agency and deployed by the care home, and volunteers deployed in the care home.
Those coming into care homes to do other work, for example healthcare workers, tradespeople, hairdressers and beauticians, and CQC inspectors will also have to follow the new regulations, unless they have a medical exemption.
Proposals of drawn concerns from industry observers. Dr Rhidian Hughes, Chief Executive of VODG, said: “Clarity around contentious policy proposals is always welcome, particularly when details of policy intent become public via media reports before any official government announcements are made.
“Given the potential divisiveness of this proposal, we would urge the government to tread carefully and work with people who use services, the workforce, providers, and commissioners to fully understand how best to implement. Alongside this, the sector needs sufficient resources and guidance. The government must also be alert to the ethical and professional issues at work and should seek to closely monitor impact.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said today: “Unite strongly opposes forcing any health and social care workers to have a vaccine or risk sacrificing their job.
“Encouragement, not compulsion is the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the very good reason that such an approach is shown to work.
“A checklist of reasons behind the shocking level of infection in care homes points to a stack of government failures. It is invidious that social care staff should be singled out in this fashion – it smacks of the government trying to divert attention from its massive failure at the beginning of the pandemic to protect elderly residents from coronavirus.
Approximately one in six care workers – around 52,000 – have not had the vaccine. There are also ongoing consultations over whether to make jabs compulsory for NHS staff, with 151,000 NHS workers – just over one in 10 – unvaccinated.
Azeem Majeed, Professor of Primary Care and Public Health at Imperial College London, cautioned that making the vaccine compulsory could increase conflict.
“Compulsory vaccination may harden anti-vaccine views,” he told i. “People may also view this as the ‘thin end of the wedge’ and the first step in making vaccination compulsory for other groups, such as NHS staff and teachers.”
“I would prefer employers, the NHS and government to engage with staff to build trust to address the reasons for their vaccine hesitancy.”
ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “I can understand why the Government has taken this decision as it is vital that we get as many people protected against Covid-19 as possible. The vaccine is very important and playing a crucial role in the pandemic.
“However, I do not like the idea of forcing people to do something against their will and would prefer it to remain a matter of personal choice rather than be compulsory.
“I think the Government hasn’t gone far enough in its efforts to persuade people of the value of the vaccine and is using the blunt instrument of legislation.
“This will without doubt create another barrier to recruitment at a time when social care providers are facing an employment crisis and struggling to fill one shift at a time.