"For me, the scientific evidence in favour of vaccination is overwhelming, but the evidence in favour of making it compulsory is less convincing."
The government is launching a five week consultation over whether it should be a condition of employment that care home staff working with vulnerable elderly people have a COVID-19 vaccination.
This consultation is important. I don’t believe it’s right to force people to have a vaccine. I would also hope those providing care would choose to have this vaccine.
I’m pretty clear that mandating the vaccine is a step too far. We need to stick with persuasion to get staff on board with this. For one thing there’s no evidence that compulsion would achieve higher immunisation rates.
It could well lead to people quitting their jobs. It’s hard enough being a front line care worker as it is without being forced to have a COVID jab.
Many older people (including those in care homes) receive care from multi-agency staff and in different locations and settings. If vaccination is made compulsory for care home staff, what about NHS staff and domiciliary care workers who deal with elderly patients and clients? There’s little logic in only focusing on one staff group in relation to mandated vaccinations.
Compulsion is too blunt an instrument. It is surely better to use logic and persuasion to achieve the desired result. Having said that the message does not seem to be getting through in some areas.
Latest figures suggest that about a quarter of care staff have not been vaccinated, rising to 40% in parts of London, Manchester and Luton.
Data released last month for the London borough of Lambeth revealed that only 43% of care home workers have been vaccinated. That is the lowest rate of any borough in England. According to SAGE 80% of staff and 90% of residents need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. Statistics like that highlight why the Government is considering drastic action.
Some ministers – for example the health secretary – still lean towards the idea of compulsion for staff. Matt Hancock has spoken about the duty of care on the part of the workforce not to pass on the disease to vulnerable clients.
But there is opposition to the idea. The National Care Forum’s Vic Rayner has highlighted fears over the potential to drive people out of the profession. And of course there’s a danger it could lead to protracted legal wrangles from staff who lose their jobs.
The way the government handles this consultation exercise is vital and it’s important that those responding are listened to. I would urge people to have their say.
For me, the scientific evidence in favour of vaccination is overwhelming, but the evidence in favour of making it compulsory is less convincing.