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Care home workers could face compulsory vaccinations

Written by: Emma Lunn
The government has launched a consultation about making Covid-19 jabs mandatory for staff in care homes in order to protect residents from the virus.

The move would apply to all workers in homes for the elderly other than those who can prove an exemption.

The government says making vaccines a condition of deployment would help to protect older people living in care homes, who are among the most vulnerable to Covid-19, with some providers already implementing similar policies.

Experts on the social care working group of SAGE advise 80% of staff and 90% of residents need to be vaccinated to provide a minimum level of protection against outbreaks of Covid-19. Currently only 53% of older adult homes in England are meeting this threshold.

This means nearly half of all care homes with older adult residents don’t meet SAGE’s recommended vaccination thresholds for care homes and staff.

The government says the staff vaccination rate is currently below 80% in 89 local authority areas – more than half – and all 32 London boroughs. There are 27 local authority areas with a staff vaccination rate below 70%.

The vaccine has already had a significant impact on reducing coronavirus hospitalisations and deaths.

A five-week consultation will look at requiring care home providers, caring for older adults, to only hire workers who have received their Covid-19 vaccination.

Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary, said: “Older people living in care homes are most at risk of suffering serious consequences of Covid-19 and we have seen the grave effects the virus has had on this group.

“Making vaccines a condition of deployment is something many care homes have called for, to help them provide greater protection for staff and residents in older people’s care homes and so save lives.

“The vaccine is already preventing deaths and is our route out of this pandemic. We have a duty of care to those most vulnerable to Covid-19, so it is right we consider all options to keep people safe.”

With some care home providers already implementing similar policies, the consultation will help inform decision-making around how the change could be implemented and whether respondents think it will be beneficial.

Care home group Barchester Healthcare said in February that it will not take on new staff who refuse to have the Covid-19 injection on non-medical grounds.

Dr Pete Calveley, Barchester Healthcare chief executive, said: “Barchester believes the vaccination programme has transformed the outlook for the vulnerable residents in older people care homes, a significant proportion of whom will not acquire full immunity despite being vaccinated.

“We have not lightly introduced our vaccine policy, but we take the view that providing safe care for those we care for is our paramount obligation.”

Staff, providers, stakeholders, residents and their families are being urged to take part in the consultation with a final decision expected this summer.

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