The government announced today that most frontline healthcare staff in England will have to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
A deadline has been set for 1 April 2022 to give unvaccinated staff time to get both doses. The CSP, other health unions and professional bodies, and the Health and Care Professions Council all oppose mandatory vaccination.
CSP chief executive Karen Middleton said: ‘We are pro-vaccination and have been actively working with employers and encouraging all of our members working across all areas of the health system to take it up.
‘However we strongly oppose making the Covid vaccine mandatory. We believe all healthcare professionals should get vaccinated if appropriate but we also believe we need greater engagement with those who are hesitant to understand their position and see what can be done.
‘We are also concerned that this decision may create a sense of false security among staff that has an impact on the use of PPE and other protective measures.'
Mandatory vaccination is a blunt tool that could prove counter-productive at a time when the NHS is already under extreme pressure.
The CSP says vaccination saves lives and is helping to bring us closer to the end of the pandemic, but it opposes the mandate because making it a condition of employment could prove counter-productive, as well as being inequitable.
Each of the four UK nations makes its own decisions on the issue.
The flu vaccine will not be made mandatory and there will be exemptions for the Covid vaccine requirement for medical reasons.
Health trade unions point to a very high level of vaccinations already - 93 per cent - and that the way to increase this is through education and encouragement. They say that some of the seven per cent who have not had the vaccine are on sick or maternity leave.
Lack of alternatives
The unions remain concerned about a lack of alternatives to mandating, for example daily testing as in the USA.
The government's decision follows a consultation which began in September and considered whether both the Covid and flu jabs should be compulsory for frontline NHS and care workers.
CSP director of policy Rob Yeldham said: ‘We submitted our views to the consultation explaining our concerns about safety, trust in public health and equity. But it is clear that ministers have not listened to evidence or advice.'
The CSP had urged ministers to delay changes until after the winter pressures.
Mr Yeldham added:
This would allow services to cope without losing staff now, and would give staff time to make changes.
The CSP will offer advice on what this means for individuals, services and business once the details of the government’s plans are made available. In the meantime rules requiring care home owners to ensure physios, physio support workers, and physio students on placements going into their premises are vaccinated come into force this Thursday 11 November.
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