A six-week consultation launches today on making COVID-19 and flu vaccination mandatory for frontline health and social care staff.
The proposals would mean only those who are fully vaccinated, unless medically exempt, could be deployed to deliver health and care services.
Legislation requiring care home staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 comes into force on 11 November meaning workers need to get their first jab by 16 September in order to meet the deadline.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Many patients being treated in hospitals and other clinical settings are most at risk of suffering serious consequences of COVID-19, and we must do what we can to protect them.
“It’s so clear to see the impact vaccines have against respiratory viruses which can be fatal to the vulnerable, and that’s why we’re exploring mandatory vaccines for both COVID-19 and flu.
“We will consider the responses to the consultation carefully but, whatever happens, I urge the small minority of NHS staff who have not yet been jabbed to consider getting vaccinated – for their own health as well as those around them.”
More than nine in ten (92%) of NHS staff have had their first dose and 88% both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, and ministers are urging the remainder to take up offer now to keep themselves and those they care for safe.
National flu vaccination rates in the health service have increased from 14% in 2002 to 76% last year. In some settings, however, rates are as low as 53%.
Professor Martin Green OBE, CEO of Care England, said: “The consultation represents a small step towards creating a level playing field between the NHS and social care. We hope this will help alleviate some of the workforce pressures rife within the sector induced as a result of residential care settings having been singled out initially. However, despite the launch of the consultation, there still remain unanswered questions, such as where COVID-19 boosters fit into the picture, as well as an absence of central guidance around exemptions.”