Ministers set to scrap mandatory Covid vaccines for NHS workers

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Monday 14th February 2022

Ministers are set to scrap plans for mandatory Covid-19 vaccines for NHS workers. 

Proposals to introduce compulsory vaccination for NHS workers are to be shelved following a review of the policy, the health secretary has confirmed. The planned deadline of April 1st will now not go ahead. The move will mean that NHS workers who are not double jabbed will not lose their jobs.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Sajid Javid said that ministers have held discussions about mandatory vaccination as a result of the dominance of the Omicron variant. When the policy changes were announced in 2021, the Delta variant was dominant. Since, the Omicron variant has taken over, which has prompted fresh debate. Mr Javid said that the government did not regret the proposal and stressed that he is eager to encourage as many NHS workers as possible to come forward and have the vaccine if they haven’t already done so.

Data suggests that the Omicron variant is far more transmissible than the Delta variant, but it is less likely to cause severe disease, particularly in those who are fully vaccinated. The booster dose reduces the risk of hospitalisation by over 90%. 

Since September, there has been a net increase of 127,000 people in the NHS who have been vaccinated. 

Mandatory vaccination was a controversial policy. Ministers insisted that the primary aim was to protect the most vulnerable and urged NHS and social care workers to have the jab. Health and social care staff were prioritised for the first, second and third doses, and millions took up the offer. However, many were not comfortable with the idea of compulsory vaccination and unions and bodies representing NHS workers criticised the timing of the policy. If the deadline of April 1st had stayed, the NHS would have lost tens of thousands of staff at a time when pressure in unrelenting and there are already significant shortages.

The move to scrap the deadline was welcomed by the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of GPs. 
Mandatory vaccination will also no longer be a requirement for social care workers.