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Vaccines Minister Confirms Government Is Considering Compulsory Covid-19 Jabs For NHS Staff

The government is looking at making the coronavirus vaccine compulsory for health staff (Alamy)

4 min read

The government is considering making coronavirus jabs compulsory for NHS staff, according to the vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi.

He confirmed it was “something that we are absolutely thinking about” amid reports the current consultation on requiring people working in care homes to be vaccinated will report back this week.

But Labour said "threatening" NHS staff to have the jab before being able to work was not a good idea.

"We’ve been consulting in terms of a condition of deployment into social care. I think it’s only right that we look at the healthcare system as well," Zahawi told Sky News on Sunday. 

“It’s absolutely the right thing, it would be incumbent on any responsible government, to have the debate, to do thinking as to how we go about protecting the most vulnerable, by making sure those who look after them are vaccinated."

While the issue of compulsory vaccination will be viewed as highly controversial, Zahawi insisted “there is precedent for this".

"Obviously surgeons get vaccinated for Hepatitis B, so it’s something we are absolutely thinking about,” he added. 

But Labour has expressed resistance to the idea, arguing it will create an unnecessary barrier to recruitment. 

"Given we have got a recruitment crisis in parts of the NHS I think it's far more important we try and work with staff rather than against them," shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire said. 

"Threatening staff, I don't think is a good idea."

Debbonaire said Public Health England and the NHS were having success when they worked with people to address the reasons for their hesitancy about getting a jab.

"I would like to see the government work with the NHS and social care staff,” she added.Elsewhere in politics this morning:

  • Downing Street finally confirmed Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds got married on Saturday, with a spokesman saying: "The Prime Minister and Ms Symonds were married yesterday afternoon in a small ceremony at Westminster Cathedral. The couple will celebrate their wedding with family and friends next summer.”
  • A picture of the happy couple was also released this morning. The PM will be back in the office on Tuesday though, as Number 10 confirmed they will take a honeymoon next summer after the wedding celebration planned for July 2022.
  • The Sunday Times is reporting British intelligence agents now believe it is “feasible” the global pandemic began with a leak from a Chinese research laboratory. Zahawi said the WHO must be able to fully investigate the origins of the outbreak.
  • There is still debate over the June 21 date for lifting coronavirus restrictions in England, with Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, telling Sky News it it "too early" given the increase in cases of the Indian variant.
  • Zahawi told told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show “we have to be cautious”, and said the government was waiting for the latest data on June 14 before deciding whether to proceed with the fourth step on the lockdown roadmap.
  • The new DUP leader Edwin Poots blasted the EU for using Northern Ireland as a "play-thing" over Brexit, but appearing together on the BBC the European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic rejected the accusation and said they were doing “our utmost to make sure we demonstrate our total commitment to the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement”.
  • And despite being cleared of breaching the ministerial code, Labour has demanded full details of how Johnson’s Downing Street flat renovation was funded are now released.

 Zahawi also said British regulators were still considering whether to offer Covid vaccinations to children, but claimed the "infrastructure" was in place to do so. The EU, America and Canada have approved the Pfizer jab for those 12 and over.

The minister said the issue was complicated because the main benefits would be to the adults around them rather than the children themselves.

"On the whole you are vaccinating to protect their families and their communities and the country," he said.

A member of the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group said the emergence of new coronavirus variants could influence the decision on whether to vaccinate children.

Professor Peter Openshaw, speaking in a personal capacity, told Times Radio the debate was about the possible risks of "very, very rare complications" balanced against the "certainty" someone can get "very severe complications" by catching Covid.

"It may well be that actually giving children vaccines will become a clearer option once we know more about the disease in children and whether the new variants are spreading further into the paediatric population and causing more significant disease,” he added.

“That could certainly change the risk-benefit ratio."

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