Mandatory jabs for NHS staff in England could end
Ministers will meet later to decide whether or not to scrap mandatory Covid vaccinations for NHS staff in England.
Frontline NHS workers in England must be fully vaccinated by 1 April, meaning they need a first dose by Thursday.
If they are not jabbed by April, they will be redeployed or dismissed. Around 77,000 NHS staff are unvaccinated.
Last week, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the jabs requirement was being “kept under review” but that it was the “duty” of NHS staff to get vaccinated.
He told the Health and Social Care committee on Tuesday that, when the policy was announced, the dominant variant was Delta, and that it was right to “reflect” now Omicron was dominant.
But it is understood no final decisions have been made.
The government has been under pressure from some within the health service to scrap the mandate, amid warnings that it would lead to a staffing crisis.
The Royal College of Midwives warned the policy could have a “catastrophic impact” on maternity services, while the Royal College of GPs and Royal College of Nursing called for the deadline to be delayed.
“We’re reflecting on it because we do have to accept that the virus has changed.”
But the Department of Health and Social Care has previously insisted the policy was “the right thing to do to protect patients”.
The UK Health Security Agency says vaccines have proven to be effective against hospitalisation, mortality, infection, and transmission.
“Several studies have provided evidence that vaccines are effective at preventing infection,” a recent report said.
“Uninfected individuals cannot transmit; therefore, the vaccines are also effective at preventing transmission.”
‘I find the argument for the science a bit weak’
Specialist paramedic Matt Taylor, 42, is unvaccinated and insists he’s prepared to lose his job over it.
Mr Taylor, who works in primary care in Cumbria, said: “We all know people who are triple jabbed and they’ve still got Covid or they’ve not been jabbed and they haven’t got it.
“It’s not like the vaccine has eradicated Covid like some vaccines have done in the past, so I find the argument for the science a bit weak.”
Read more from Matt and other unvaccinated workers here.
Protests against the policy have been held in cities across the UK – and some NHS staff have said they are even considering moving to work across the borders, where vaccination is not compulsory.
There are no plans in Scotland and Wales to make Covid jabs mandatory for NHS workers or care home staff, while there will be a public consultation on the issue in Northern Ireland.
The latest figures show that almost 95% of NHS staff have had at least one Covid jab, leaving about 77,000 who have not.
Speaking to MPs on the select committee last week, Mr Javid said not all of the 77,000 were in patient-facing roles.
He said that while it was the “professional duty of every NHS worker to get vaccinated” it was “reasonable to assume” that not everyone would do so.
Mr Javid said the jabs requirement would be “kept under review”. When pressed on whether that meant the government was considering scrapping it he added: “We’re reflecting on it because we do have to accept that the virus has changed.”
Since November, care home staff in England have had to be fully vaccinated.