The U.K.’s human rights watchdog admits that forcing care home staff to get vaccinated against Covid would be a “significant departure from current public health policy”, but has endorsed the move anyway. Support of the idea from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) could tip the balance away from the likes of Health Minister Nadine Dorries who oppose the “no jab, no job” policy, towards the view – held by both the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary – that legislation on this matter is necessary “to reach a position of much greater safety for care recipients”. The Guardian has more.
Ministers are considering changing the law to make vaccination a condition of deployment for people in some professions that come into regular close contact with elderly and vulnerable people at high risk from the coronavirus.
In a report to the Government seen by the Guardian, the EHRC admitted that making vaccines compulsory for care home staff would be a “significant departure from current public health policy”.
But they judged that ministers were “right to prioritise protection of the right to life for residents and staff” and said it would be reasonable for care home workers to need a jab “in order to work directly with older and disabled people, subject to some important safeguards”.
The Guardian adds that the EHRC is likely to make a similar recommendation about healthcare workers. Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has suggested that NHS staff could also face mandatory vaccination, though the idea has received firm opposition from both the Royal College of Nursing, which has a membership of 450,000 registered nurses, and the Royal College of General Practitioners, representing over 50,000 British GPs.
[Whitehall is right to be nervous on this point: research suggests that health and social care workers who feel greater pressure from their employers to receive Covid vaccination are more likely to decline it.]
Zahawi said no decisions had been made yet, and stressed there was a precedent: surgeons were required to be vaccinated against hepatitis B. He added: “It would be incumbent on any responsible Government to have the debate, to do the thinking about how we go about protecting the most vulnerable by making sure that those who look after them are vaccinated.”
A Government source said: “We think it would save lives.”
There is nervousness in Whitehall about making moves to force anyone to have a coronavirus injection, given the fear that this could make people who are already vaccine hesitant even more resistant.
However, now that care workers had been eligible for vaccines for months due to their high position on the priority list, the EHRC said some demographic groups that were less likely to get vaccinated were “disproportionately represented in the adult social care sector workforce”.
The EHRC said mandatory vaccination could risk further excluding these groups “from access to employment”, so a proportionate approach with important safeguards was needed.
Worth reading in full.