NHS staff have been warned they could face a mandatory requirement to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he is “leaning towards” making the jabs compulsory for staff in England, with around 100,000 NHS workers not fully vaccinated.
Mr Javid insisted he had not yet made a final decision, but the move would mean the situation for NHS staff in England is broadly in line with the requirement for care home workers.
The Health Secretary said the presence of unvaccinated staff means “there is an issue about patient safety”, as he set out why he favoured mandatory jabs.
He told Sky News: “I’m leaning towards doing it.
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“There’s around 100,000 that are not (vaccinated in the NHS) at this point, but what we saw with the care sector is that when we announced the policy… then we saw many more people come forward and do the right thing and get vaccinated, that’s what I hope, if we can do the same thing with the NHS – we will see.
“If they haven’t got vaccinated by now then there is an issue about patient safety and that’s something the Government will take very seriously.”
From November 11, anyone working or volunteering in a care home will need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, unless exempt.
Mr Javid declined to say when the move would come into force in the NHS, saying “it will take some time to get it through Parliament” and he would then want to give people time to come forward to get their jab.
But he added: “I don’t want to put a timeframe on it, but it wouldn’t be months and months.”
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Vaccines boost our immunity and protect us from dangerous viruses like flu and #COVID19.
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On Times Radio, Mr Javid said: “We’ve been very clear and open about this, working with our friends in the NHS, and the reason for this is if you’re working in the NHS, that fantastic work you’re doing every day, you yourself are more susceptible to this virus because you’re just much more likely to come into contact with it, but also the people that you’re looking after are more vulnerable and that’s why they’re in hospital, they’ve got health needs, and this is about protecting them and protecting yourself.”
Jeremy Brown, professor of respiratory medicine at University College London Hospitals, who sits on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, told Sky News: “If you’re frontline NHS staff dealing with patients and meeting the general public you should be vaccinated – it’s a professional thing, it’s a safety thing.
“We know that quite a few infections have occurred in the hospital have potentially come from staff rather than patients.
“And if you’re not vaccinated, I feel, you shouldn’t be dealing with patients or the general public – whether it should be compulsory it is always a tricky thing, but I do think it professionally each person should be vaccinated.”
He said he would not answer a question about whether staff should lose their jobs if they were not vaccinated, but added: “I think they should change their role, perhaps, not lose their job.”