THE UK Government will launch a public consultation on whether or not to make Covid-19 and flu vaccination a condition of deployment in healthcare settings in England.
This announcement forms part of a decision by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to make it mandatory that 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.
The DHSC says this will apply to all workers employed directly by a 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. It will also apply to individuals coming into care homes to do other work, for example healthcare workers, tradespeople, hairdressers and beauticians. This includes CQC inspectors.
The decision follows an "extensive" public consultation. New legislation – subject to Parliamentary approval and a subsequent 16-week grace period – means the change should come into effect in October 2021.
The BBC has reported that the Scottish Government has no plans to make the vaccination of care home workers compulsory in Scotland.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock said: "We have a responsibility to do all we can to safeguard those receiving care including in the NHS and so will be consulting further on whether to extend to other health and social care workers."
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, commented on the announcement of a wider consultation: "Mandatory vaccination for NHS staff is an incredibly complex issue that raises many ethical, legal and practical questions. Therefore, it is only right that any Government proposals are put out to a proper consultation, during which time staff and representatives are given an opportunity to contribute.
"While some healthcare workers already need to be immunised or show they are not infectious with other diseases to work in certain areas, any specific proposal for the compulsory vaccination of healthcare staff against Covid-19 would raise new ethical and legal implications.
"Vaccine uptake among doctors remains high. But as we have said previously, where fewer members of staff have been vaccinated, there must be an understanding of why this is so. Vaccine hesitancy is not the same as flat-out refusal, and there could be several reasons why some staff may be unable or unwilling to be vaccinated. Doctors naturally want to be protected against this potentially lethal infection that has already taken far too many lives, including hundreds of their colleagues’, so those who do decline a vaccine are unlikely to do so lightly. Compulsion is a blunt instrument to tackle a complex issue.
"That there appears to be lower uptake among people from certain ethnic backgrounds needs serious consideration, and any policy on mandatory vaccination for staff must not be discriminatory."