Practices providing care for care homes will be required to ensure staff are fully vaccinated against COVID, it has been announced.
The government is considering requiring all NHS staff to be vaccinated against both COVID-19 and flu, it was announced yesterday. Medical leaders reacted cautiously to the latest proposal, which is to be subject to extended consultation.
However, care home workers are to be required to undergo COVID-19 vaccine – and the rule will apply to practice staff and GPs who provide services to care homes. The government said it had decided to proceed with compulsory vaccination for anyone working in a registered care home following a period of consultation. Staff will be allowed a medical exemption. The rule will apply to staff employed by a care home, those employed by an agency and volunteers. Those entering care homes for other work, including tradespeople, will also have to be vaccinated but emergency service workers will not have to be. The new law is to be introduced very rapidly through secondary legislation – and care home staff will then be given 16 weeks to get vaccination.
Care minister Helen Whateley said: “The Social Care Working Group of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) advises that an uptake rate for one dose of 80% in staff and 90% in residents in each individual care home setting is needed to provide a minimum level of protection against outbreaks of COVID-19. While the majority of care home workers have now been vaccinated, only 65% of older care homes in England are currently meeting the minimum level of staff uptake for one dose needed to reduce the risk of outbreaks in these high-risk care settings – falling to 44% of care homes in London.”
The British Medical Association called for “targeted engagement” and alternative mitigations for unvaccinated staff, indicating it might oppose the proposal.
BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “Doctors naturally want to be protected against this potentially lethal infection that has already taken far too many lives, including hundreds of their colleagues, so those who do decline a vaccine are unlikely to do so lightly. Compulsion is a blunt instrument to tackle a complex issue. Recent research has highlighted that pressurising health and social care workers can have damaging effects, leading to an erosion of trust, worsening concerns about the vaccine and hardened stances on declining vaccination. That there appears to be lower uptake among people from certain ethnic backgrounds needs serious consideration, and any policy on mandatory vaccination for staff must not be discriminatory.”