Care home vaccinations are to be made mandatory for care home staff in England, according to press reports.
The BBC confirmed the move, first reported in The Guardian, with care staff expected to be given 16 weeks’ notice to have the jab or face being redeployed from the frontline or losing their job.
An announcement on the move, which follows a government consultation, is expected in the next few days.
Workers who can prove they are medically exempt from vaccination will not be affected by the policy.
Around 84% of care home staff had been given at least one dose by 6 June with 69% receiving two jabs.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic and have already saved thousands of lives – with millions of health and care staff vaccinated.
“Our priority is to make sure people in care homes are protected and we launched the consultation to get views on whether and how the government might take forward a new requirement for adult care home providers, looking after older people, to only deploy staff who have had a COVID-19 vaccination or have an appropriate exemption.
“The consultation ended on Wednesday 26 May and we will publish our response in due course.”
News of the move sparked concerns that it could discourage people from working in the care sector.
Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group, said: “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.”
Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer, said: “This looks like another potential avoidable mess. We’ve told Ministers that more than a third of our members in social care would consider packing their jobs in if vaccines were mandated. They can’t now say they weren’t warned.”
Matthew Wort, partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors, described the news as the “wrong move at the wrong time” and warned it could be subject to a legal challenge.
“It will be welcomed by some in the sector because of the perceived certainty it will bring, but if the policy subsequently falls down on human rights grounds it will be social care providers left carrying the cost,” Matthew said.
By contrast, the news was welcomed by Runwood Homes Senior Living Chief Operating Officer, Gavin O’Hare-Connolly.
Gavin told CHP: “As a Registered Nurse I have been vaccinated my whole career in order to work in certain clinical settings, and given what we now know about COVID-19 and the sheer devastation this sector has seen over the past 18 months, this must be welcomed across the sector.
“I understand the reservations some in the sector may have in respect of recruitment, but this must be secondary to the need for prioritisation of the health and welfare of those who work with us and indeed those who live with us.”
John Godden MBE, CEO of Salutem Healthcare, called for the government to make COVID-19 vaccines compulsory for all care staff, not just those working in settings for elderly residents.
John said: “At Salutem, we adopted a policy of compulsory vaccination for our frontline staff with effect from April 30th. This move received near total support from colleagues and those we care for. Above all, in this sector, we have a duty of care to those we support and ensuring our colleagues are fully vaccinated against this pernicious disease is essential in keeping our residents safe.
“The government’s proposals today do not go nearly far enough. Vaccines must be mandatory in all care settings, not just those providing care to the elderly. Adults and children with complex medical needs may be at even greater risk from coronavirus because they may not yet have met the vaccination criteria themselves.”