Plans to make COVID jabs mandatory for care home workers are set to be approved by the government, according to a report.
A paper submitted to the COVID-19 operations cabinet last week seen by the Telegraph suggests Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health & Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock have agreed to the move.
The paper is reported to say: “The prime minister and the secretary of state [Hancock] have discussed on several occasions the progress that is being made to immunise social care workers against COVID-19 and have agreed – in order to reach a position of much greater safety for care recipients – to put in place legislation to require vaccinations among the workforce.”
Under the plans, England’s 1.5 million adult social care workers could be required to have a COVID jab.
When quizzed on mandatory jabs on the Today programme on 23 March, Mr Hancock said: “Well that sort of approach is already in place for doctors, they have to have the hepatitis B vaccine, and so there’s already a clear precedent and there’s a duty of care that people have if you work in an elderly care home.
“After all residents of elderly care homes that are the most vulnerable of all to COVID. But this important moral questions on both sides there’d be a change in the law required, and so this is something that we’re considering but we haven’t made a final decision on, and we do want to hear from care homes and indeed care home staff, on this question.”
Independent Care Group Chair, Mike Padgham, argued that jabs, while vital, should remain voluntary.
Mike said: “I think rather than force it through legislation, the government has more work to do in terms of persuading everyone, not just care workers, about how important it is that the whole country has the vaccine so that we are all protected.
“There are already 120,000 vacancies in the care sector, we don’t need to put anything else in the way that might prevent people from joining our rewarding profession.”
Tony Stein, chief executive of Healthcare Management Solutions, said: “Whilst compulsory vaccination is unusual, it is not unprecedented. NHS staff are already required to be vaccinated against Hepatitis B if they are to work on NHS premises.
“Receiving a jab is not a big ask of people and whilst we have already seen that the vast majority of our workforce have been very happy to receive the vaccination in the fight against this terrible disease, we welcome further moves to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those in our care.”
The GMB Union accused the government of being “heavy handed” towards social care workers.
Kelly Andrews, Lead Social Care Officer, said: “We have repeatedly told Ministers we expect the government to act so that no workers suffer a financial detriment as a result of getting the vaccine – especially those priority workers in social care and elsewhere.
“Ministers have repeatedly refused to listen and talk now of imposing a blanket legal change forcing care workers to get vaccinated.
“This is more shoddy behaviour from a government that have long lost the trust of the social care workforce.”