England’s frontline NHS workers will have to be fully inoculated against Covid-19 by April 1 as a mandatory condition of their employment, Heath Secretary Sajid Javid has said, as tens of thousands of staff are still not jabbed.
Speaking on Tuesday to Parliament, Javid confirmed that “all those working in the NHS and social care will have to be vaccinated.”
“We must avoid preventable harm and protect patients in the NHS, protect colleagues in the NHS and of course protect the NHS itself.”
The deadline set for next spring – April 1 – will give all staff enough time to complete the Covid vaccination course. Up to 100,000 healthcare staff in England are unvaccinated, according to the head of NHS Providers Chris Hopson.
Javid also said there would be exemptions for people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, or for those not in face-to-face positions with patients.
The decision comes after consultations began in September on whether to make Covid and flu jabs mandatory for frontline NHS and care workers. The flu vaccine, however, will not be made mandatory just yet, but will be kept under review.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Sky News last month that he was “leaning towards” mandatory vaccination for NHS staff, but Downing Street was yet to make a final decision.
The prospect of mandatory vaccinations for NHS staff has raised concerns that the move could adversely impact an already overstretched health service. Hopson insisted that the government must work closely with NHS trusts to avoid a mass exodus of unvaccinated staff: “We understand why people are vaccine-hesitant. We need to win the argument with them rather than beat them around the head,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today show.
Javid, however, told Sky at the end of October that the risk of not being able to work due to the mandate would make unvaccinated workers come forward and get jabbed – a trend seen with care staff. The health secretary said that vaccination rates “absolutely surged” in this sector after setting a November 11 deadline for this group to have received both doses.
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