Covid vaccines set to be made mandatory for care home workers
- Credit: PA
Ministers are reportedly preparing to announce that care home workers will be required to have mandatory coronavirus vaccines.
The government has held a consultation into the controversial proposal as a measure to protect the most vulnerable from contracting Covid-19.
Officials at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) did not deny a report by the Guardian saying that ministers will approve the measure for social care workers in England.
Under the plans, staff working with adults will be given 16 weeks to get vaccinated or face losing their jobs, according to the newspaper.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is known to be in favour of the move, while England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, has said doctors and care workers have a "professional responsibility" to protect their patients.
A DHSC spokeswoman said: "Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic and have already saved thousands of lives – with millions of health and care staff vaccinated.
"Our priority is to make sure people in care homes are protected and we launched the consultation to get views on whether and how the government might take forward a new requirement for adult care home providers, looking after older people, to only deploy staff who have had a Covid-19 vaccination or have an appropriate exemption."
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She added that the department's response to the consultation will be published "in due course".
Multiple care groups and unions have raised concerns about mandatory inoculation, highlighting ethical issues and warning that compulsion could increase hesitancy.
The GMB union has said more than a third of carers would consider leaving their jobs if vaccines become compulsory.
National officer Rachel Harrison added: "Carers have been at the forefront of this pandemic, risking their lives to keep our loved ones safe, often enduring almost Victorian working standards in the process.
"The government could do a lot to help them: address their pay, terms and conditions, increasing the rate of and access to contractual sick pay, banning zero hours, and ensuring more mobile NHS vaccination teams so those working night shifts can get the jab.
"Instead, ministers are ploughing ahead with plans to strongarm care workers into taking the vaccine without taking seriously the massive blocks these workers still face in getting jabbed."
Meanwhile, the UK's human rights watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has concluded it is "reasonable" to legally require care home staff to be vaccinated.
It did, however, advise that safeguards should be included to minimise the risk of discrimination by including exemptions including for staff who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.
Considerations are ongoing over whether to extend the measure to NHS staff.
On Wednesday morning, cabinet minister and MP for South West Norfolk, Liz Truss, said a decision on mandatory vaccination for care home staff was "very imminent".
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, the International Trade Secretary added: "We need to make sure we get the balance right, but I'm sure people appreciate that protecting lives is the absolute priority."