Covid: Consultation launched into whether coronavirus vaccines for England care home staff will be mandatory

ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand analyses the plan

Staff in care homes in England with elderly residents may be required to get a Covid-19 vaccine, the government has said.

The Department of Health and Social Care has launched a consultation on making coronavirus jabs a condition of employment for care home staff.

In parts of the country, care home staff vaccination rates are below 70%.

Scientists say they need to be above 80% and 90% of residents vaccinated to provide the minimum level of protection for care home residents and only 53% of older adult care homes in England are meeting this threshold.

The five-week consultation will seek views on the proposal, any potential impact it could have on staffing and safety, how it could be implemented and who could be exempt.

Staff, care providers, residents and their families and other stakeholders are being urged to take part.

Anyone who is medically exempt from having a vaccine would not be required to have one.

A decision is expected to be made this summer.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said that when it comes to such a deadly disease, it is part of a duty of care that the decision be considered.

«I am being very clear here, it’s not a condition of employment, it’s a condition of deployment, in terms of if you’re coming into contact with very fragile, frail people who if exposed to Covid, it could likely kill them, then it’s only right, it’s only responsible for us as a government to consult on this.»

Announcing the consultation, Health Secretary Matt Hancock 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.”

However, some unions did not support the consultation.

Unison said it was “too heavy handed an approach» which «could backfire badly.

«Some staff may simply up and go, leaving a poorly paid sector already struggling with thousands and thousands of vacancies in a terrible state.”

While the TUC said: “Today’s ill-thought through plans will be a further blow to care workers’ morale. 

«We all want to get as many care workers vaccinated as possible. But forcing workers to get the jab will harm trust and employee relations. And it may be discriminatory.”

Last week, Public Health England predicted that the Covid jab has saved the lives of 10,400 over-60s.

As on the end of Monday, 32,250,481 or 61.2% of UK adults have had at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, while almost 15% have had both doses

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