Sajid Javid Says Mandatory Covid Vaccinations For NHS Staff Is His "Direction Of Travel"
Javid dismissed concerns that requiring the jab would exacerbate existing healthcare worker shortages (Alamy)
Sajid Javid has said requiring all NHS staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19 is his “direction of travel” amid growing concerns over rising case numbers.
Next month it will become compulsory for care home staff to have a Covid-19 vaccination in order to limit the spread among vulnerable elderly people, a move which is believed to be contributing to staff shortages amongst those who do not wish to take up the vaccine.
The government is now considering extending that policy to all NHS staff, around 100,000 of whom are estimated not to be vaccinated, in a further effort to curb a sharp spike in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks.
This morning Javid did not play down recent speculation that mandatory Covid vaccination would be introduced in the NHS.
"I'm yet to make the final decision but that is my direction of travel,” Javid told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, noting a government consultation into the matter.
He also told Sky News that he was “leaning” towards making NHS staff vaccines compulsory, but refused to set out a date the change could come into force.
“Those fantastic people working in the NHS are naturally more vulnerable to being exposed to diseases and viruses, and that includes Covid, but also the people they are looking after so well are naturally vulnerable,” Javid said.
“It’s about looking after them as well and giving them the protection they deserve.”
Yesterday The Sunday Times reported that the health secretary planned to introduce new laws making it a requirement for all health service staff to get the jab “as soon as possible".
Javid dismissed concerns that requiring the jab would exacerbate existing healthcare worker shortages by driving staff to leave.
He argued that the same had not happened in the social care sector, where it will become a condition of employment from 11 November, although unions have warned the workforce will be decimated when the rule comes into effect.
“We've seen an absolute surge in the number of social care workers that are finally getting their vaccinations,” he told the BBC.
“There's around 30,000 at the moment, out of a workforce of over a million, that haven't yet had any vaccination. Of those a substantial portion will be medically exempt.
“There may be an impact on the social care workforce that I’d rather not see, I think the net result is a safer social care sector.
Labour has expressed opposition to the move, with party leader Keir Starmer telling ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I think forcing them is a mistake. It's better to encourage and cajole.”
He continued: “My fear is that we're going to have thousands of NHS staff who can't work any longer just when we've got massive vacancies in the NHS as it is.”
“If I was to ask myself, is the problem in our hospitals, in terms of the virus, or is the problem in our schools where we aren't getting through the vaccination programme. I'd say it's the second.”
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