Government ‘seriously considering’ allowing care homes to insist staff get Covid-19 vaccine

Sector bodies urge government to address vaccine hesitancy, with UNISON warning that ‘punitive measures’ will undermine staff trust and confidence

Woman receiving Covid-19 vaccine from nurse
Photo: Halfpoint/Adobe Stock

The government is actively considering a policy that would allow care homes to insist that employees who work with people vulnerable to Covid-19 must be vaccinated, Community Care understands.

The proposals being discussed could see the government either issue guidance for care homes that would allow them to adopt the policy with government backing, or set out legal rules that state homes cannot take on staff unless they’ve had the vaccination.

Community Care understands the policy is under serious consideration. Earlier this week, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said one-third of social care staff had not had the vaccine (source: BBC News), despite being in the top two priority groups, who have been able to access the vaccine since December. Care home staff working with older adults were in the top priority group.

Providers already requiring new staff to have vaccine

Earlier this month, care home provider Barchester Healthcare said new staff could not start working with service users until they had been vaccinated (so long as they were medically fit to receive the jab).

In a statement, it said: “We have been working hard to ensure that all of our staff are aware of the facts around the vaccination, and as we have previously said we have done a lot of communication to understand and alleviate any concerns.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, care minister Helen Whately said that she recognised other employers had made vaccination mandatory for new staff, as well as Barchester.

“I know [Barchester] are doing that and that there are some other employers are looking at doing that.”

‘Punitive measures’ undermine trust and confidence in vaccine

While UNISON would not comment on the potential government proposals, a spokesperson pointed to a statement made after Barchester announced its policy, in which general secretary Christina McAnea said that, while the vaccination programme was “the way out of this health crisis” “care employers who put punitive measures in place for staff, or make it a condition of work, are undermining trust and confidence in the vaccine”.

“They are also at odds with the sensible approach being taken by most employers and the NHS,” McAnea added.

“Companies would do better to concentrate on informing staff about the benefits of the vaccination, rather than intimidating them [and] ministers should be firm with Barchester that its approach is wrong and must be reversed.”

More to be done to address vaccine hesitancy

A National Care Forum survey carried out on 8-9 February found that, among care homes for older adults, about a half (53%) had had over 70% of staff vaccinated, with rates much lower among other care homes and community-based services.

The survey examined the reasons behind the lack of take-up of the vaccine among different areas of the social care workforce. Among the findings was that hesitancy was the dominant reason for the lack of vaccination in care homes for working-age adults, while there was an “unexpectedly large category” of those who have not yet had the vaccine are those with medical reasons not to have it.

At the time, Vic Rayner, executive director at the NCF, said more work was needed to address vaccine hesitancy, as well as a better understanding of the medical barriers to vaccine uptake.

“When it comes to vaccination hesitancy, social care providers need to be supported with tailored resources to build confidence in the vaccine programme, address staff concerns and combat misinformation,” Rayner said.

An NCF spokesperson said this remained its position, when asked to comment on the speculation around the government’s plans.

Focus on giving care staff the information they need

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) would not confirm whether the policy was under consideration, but in a statement said: “At this stage of the vaccination programme, it is not clear whether vaccines will prevent transmission.”

“As large numbers of people from at-risk groups are vaccinated, we will be able to gather the evidence to prove the impact on infection rates, hospitalisation and reduced deaths. If successful, this should in time lead to a reassessment of current restrictions.”

In her Today interview, when asked about employers mandating vaccination, Whately said: “What we’re doing at the moment is making sure that health and social care workers have every opportunity to have the vaccination.”

Whately was then pressed on the point about making it a requirement for new staff to have had the vaccine and she said the government’s policy on this was “to make sure health and social care workers can get the vaccine and the information they need and really easily”.

“We know from the evidence we’ve seen that that makes a real difference, we’ve learned from the flu vaccination programmes in the past and from what we’re seeing already from Covid.

“So for care home workers, making sure that teams go into care homes not just once but multiple times, going in at least four times in order to offer the vaccine, for instance, to shift workers who may not have been there when the team went in, those who have been Covid positive and couldn’t have the vaccine first time round.”

 

31 Responses to Government ‘seriously considering’ allowing care homes to insist staff get Covid-19 vaccine

  1. Ruth Cartwright February 19, 2021 at 5:31 pm #

    I agree more needs to be done to tackle misinformation and mistrust that leads to vaccine hesitancy but at the end of the day I would not allow any relative of mine to be admitted to a care home where the staff in contact with him or her were not vaccinated.

    • Amelia February 21, 2021 at 11:55 pm #

      They have openly said the vaccine only helps prevent the person who has covid getting serious symptoms, not catching or spreading it. So, how does staff having the vaccine help the care home residents?

      • Gayle howarth March 12, 2021 at 10:58 am #

        No what they said was this was known now but with more data collected they’ll be able to say more.
        How do we protect visitors? Maintain opening?

    • Sarah_L February 22, 2021 at 11:16 am #

      That’s exactly my point. I don’t think many people would even begin to think about moving their relative into any care home, if some of their staff have refused the vaccine. Apparently there’s a grey area around this subject. Not sure where. 😄.

  2. Anonymous February 19, 2021 at 7:45 pm #

    What if they decide to leave instead…

  3. Smith February 19, 2021 at 11:59 pm #

    I think this is outrageous and will open the flood gates to force individuals to have to have the covid injection.

    If this so called vaccine gives the level of protection from covid as was stated in the beginning, then those who have been vaccinated will not be at any increased risk from those who have asserted the.right over their body, not to have it.

    • Ruth Cartwright February 22, 2021 at 10:11 am #

      Hi, Smith. What about folk who cannot have the vaccine; they would be vulnerable to someone who has chosen not to have the vaccine and is carrying (possibly completely unknowingly) the disease. We all have the right to refuse the vaccine and to take the risk for ourselves, but do we have the right to potentially infect others? We have to accept the consequences of all our decisions, and in this case the consequence may be that people who choose not to be vaccinated cannot undertake certain work.

      • Ann February 26, 2021 at 10:27 am #

        Even if you have the vaccine, you are not immune and can still spread it to others, people have the right to choose what is put into their bodies and bullying and intimidating them ,taking away their right to work or travel is not the answer. Just because people are frightened or causious doesn’t make them public enemy number one.

    • Hirst February 22, 2021 at 5:11 pm #

      Hi, I think that is exactly the point. There are numerous sources (not crackpot ones!) that have pointed out that you can be vaccinated but still transmit the virus, as it can be in your throat and nose. Additionally, not all care home residents will be vaccinated. Will there be new laws put in place to force key visitors to care homes to be vaccinated? Effectively keeping their friends and family prisoners in care homes unless they obey? These vaccines are fairly new and we surely have the right to decide what goes into our bodies, without fear of being discriminated against by employers, whose views may differ from ours. Vaccines are not always without risk, think Thalidomide, Gulf War Syndrome, Gardasil to mention but a few. Even the government has said that it is not possible to say at this stage whether vaccination stops transmission. On top of this, the Pharmaceutical industry is hardly crammed full of people following ethics and I am talking about the people at the top. If you want anyone to have confidence in your products, then the very least they can do is make their trials open and transparent. The truth is that people on trials that show more severe side effects are “disappeared” from them. Frequently the people selected for the trials are a fairly narrow age group and well, so it’s not possible to see what the effect of vaccine can have on people with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems. Most of the big outfits have been in court and been handed massive fines, for Medicare fraud, false claims, kickbacks, failure to disclose safety data. OxyContin is highly addictive and it’s maker is currently trying to go bankrupt due to lawsuits, since they failed to warn of the highly addictive nature of this drug. Our own government has absolved the vaccine makers of any liability, should anything go wrong with their wares. Hardly the way to make anyone feel comfortable in having it. Additionally their are considering a mixing of vaccines when people receive their second shot? How long would it take to discover possible problems with that? It is hard to believe a lot of things this government of ours say, as they have been caught out in frequent lies, as well as being responsible for the extent of the pandemic by constant dithering and lack of action. Allow us to make our own decisions over what we choose to put into our bodies.

      • Ann February 26, 2021 at 10:29 am #

        Here, here, well said!

  4. Sarah_L February 22, 2021 at 11:03 am #

    I think this is a wise decision. Whether you agree with me, or disagree with me, I think that anyone working in care homes who refuse to have the Covid vaccine are putting people’s relatives at risk. And yes, it matters. A whole lot. That is someone’s life partner, someone’s blood relative. I just can’t believe how some care home workers are so inconsiderate. Think of other people as well as yourselves 🙁 I’m pretty sure that my family would be majorly angry with the staff at the care home where I currently live, if any of them passed the virus onto me.

    • Renata March 10, 2021 at 4:19 pm #

      So, what’s gonna happen in case when gp doctor or paramedics will come in case of emergency. They will not be allowed to enter the premisses becase of lack of vaccine?

  5. Althea February 22, 2021 at 11:16 am #

    Firstly it’s not a “so called vaccine”, it is a well triled world wide tested vaccine. Secondly none of us has an absolute right “over their body”. Presumably you are aware that the State can override your decision to harm your body as per any objection to an emergency medical procedure. I hope but I doubt this is going to open the floodgates to a safe workforce given that you have a choice to work elsewhere. Why should the public purse pay you to be a risk to vulnerable people? You are prevented from smoking at work, you are prevented from being intoxicated at work, you are prevented from setting fires at work, you are prevented from acting like a risk averse child at work. Why no objection to those demands?

  6. Kerdy February 22, 2021 at 3:09 pm #

    I do wonder where this vaccine ID/ card / passport idea will take us. Will we be asked show our Vaccine pass to a security guard at a hospital or GP surgery or a pub or venue for example and if you don’t have one then you can not access.

    • Sue February 23, 2021 at 10:54 am #

      Let’s hope so. About time we stopped pandering to the misinformed.

  7. Alice Tredwell February 23, 2021 at 1:21 am #

    I am astonished by the absurd conspiracy narratives here. You are not and have never been as “free” to make your own decisions as you all assume. You are forced to be responsible citizens inspite of your supposed free will. My daughter is one of the true remarkable human beings having worked 16 hour shifts at the Jenner institute to bring the Oxford vaccine on stream. She is not a lizard, doesn’t get paid by the Soros foundation, nor has she conspired with Bill Gates to inject you with a chip so your o doubt extremely interesting lives can be monitored. No one is interested in experimenting on you, sadly none of us have that much value to governments. Your mobile phone chip, your twitter account, your google search, your online shopping activity provides all the information corporations and governments may want to know about you. You have a passport to go and visit your folks abroad or spend your two weeks in Benidorm but suddenly your civil liberties are under attack because we take public health seriously. Grow up.

  8. Chris Sterry February 23, 2021 at 3:47 pm #

    I feel it is a shame that some persons working with vulnerable people are so thoughtless and have little feeling for those who they care for.

    These vaccines have been proved to be effective and provided enough people do get vaccinated, this could well eradicate COVID-19 to an extent that it will not mutate. Anyone refusing to have the vaccine could well be responsible for allowing future mutations to occur.

    Within any care setting the persons working within that setting are not only responsible for themselves, but also for those to whom they provide care and in not having the vaccine they are not being responsible to those who they care for.

    If they do not wish to have the vaccine then they should not be working to provide care.

  9. B. Matthews February 23, 2021 at 4:02 pm #

    Every time a member of staff has a positive Covid test I am unable to visit my Mum in her care home. At this point in her life not being able to see her is heartbreaking. We have had to stay away during lockdowns and firebreaks. As things ease for one person to visit outside, two metres apart once a week, this unfortunately stops each time a staff member tests positive.
    I believe unless there is a medical reason to prevent it then carers should receive it as part of the requirement of the job.

    • J March 3, 2021 at 3:44 pm #

      It’s not proven yet that the vaccine stops transmission!

  10. N Jane February 23, 2021 at 4:46 pm #

    What will happen to the residents that don’t vaccinate
    Will they have to find somehere else to live
    And what happens to families that don’t vaccinate will they’ve denied entry also ?
    Everyone moaning about care workers not being vaccinated but what about all other people that could be bringing covid into the home and not vaccinating through choice ?
    Will care homes make it a rule that they won’t accept any new residents unless they have been vaccinated
    Will they be denying entry to any family who don’t prove they have been vaccinated
    As these also put the residents at risk

    Your not happy for a care worker to work in a care home unvaccinated bu are you happy for your relative to socialise with unvaccinated residents potentially risking lives

    • Sandra Wilkinson February 23, 2021 at 10:53 pm #

      I am for all people whether staff, family, contractors and sundry others that access care settings being vaccinated. As far as I know there is not one case where a resident has refused vaccination. Happy to be informed otherwise. Nobody has the right to absolute individual civil liberties when that results in my my relatives or my co-workers being harmed by selfishness and ignorance. You are right, in my case I would only be happy when everyone who works or has access to a care setting is vaccinated. Simple really, be safe or get another job working from home.

    • Belinda Jones February 24, 2021 at 8:51 am #

      Well said.

    • Renata March 10, 2021 at 4:27 pm #

      Exactly

  11. keith caldwell March 1, 2021 at 5:07 pm #

    Why on earth don’t concerned relatives get together & threaten legal action against homes whose staff are not vaccinated? That way individual residents would not be singled out for any possible maltreatment or discrimination.

    It is a lame excuse to say that vaccinated people can still carry the virus.
    Any virus in vaccinated people must be short-lived & at lower levels compared to the unvaccinated individuals who are already known to taken the infection into several homes. The ease with which Covid is spread is related not only to the virus type but also to absolute viral loads.

  12. Jean spencer March 2, 2021 at 7:32 am #

    My husband has carers coming in 4 times a day he also has a DNR. Can I insist the carers have had their cvid vaccination, apparently not because they have their “human rights” but so do I, my husband and I feel strongly that care workers at home and in care homes should have the vaccination or not wo not work in care

    • Renata March 10, 2021 at 4:28 pm #

      Of course same as doctors paramedics etc

  13. Simon March 4, 2021 at 5:22 pm #

    Only yesterday PHE explained that the first vaccination reduces transmission and the latest research indicates positive outcomes for elimination of transmission so your comment is not accurate J. By all means distrust science and be sceptical of medics, but do not expose others to disease. What we and our health and other collagues do is called the caring professions for a reason. If you only care for yourself perhaps striving to make the human condition better for all is not your vocation.

  14. Elizabeth March 8, 2021 at 9:09 pm #

    No government can insist that a certain section of the community be vaccinated because of what they do for a living. What if a care worker had a religious reason not to have the vaccination. If a family member objects so much to a care worker having rights over thier own body ,then might I suggest they give up work and look after thier relative in thier own home. It would be a slippery slope forcing people to subject thier bodies to a vaccine that they do not wish to have. What next would they be forced to do in the name of the so called greater good. I am happy for people to have the vaccine but I personally would not be brow beaten , bullied or be made to feel like an irresponsible or uncaring person for refusing to have it. What happened to freedom of choice. The care community have been badly paid, over worked and generally treated like the poor relation to doctors and nurses and now it is also ok to impose the will of others on thier own bodies. Shame on anyone who thinks they should have no choice

  15. Christine March 10, 2021 at 1:11 am #

    Religion is an untestable belief, it doesn’t measure up to verifiable scientific evidence. To boot you don’t actually have absolute freedom of choice in any case. Bet you put on your death belt when you drive? Whatever happened to 4 star petrol? When was the last time you smoked in a workplace? How come you leave the supermarket when they decide to close? I feel no shame in requiring everybody being denied choice if that endangers public health and the safety of the community. Next time you need to go on a plane demand that the pilot exercises their freedom of choice to be blind drunk.

  16. Lesley March 12, 2021 at 1:57 pm #

    I have read all comments – what part of ‘having the vaccine does NOT stop transmission’ do people not understand, which therefore means why do care workers have to be vaccinated it’s the residents who are vulnerable that need the vaccination. Makes my blood boil people ignoring this fact because it doesn’t fit their narrative.

  17. Mithran Samuel
    Mithran Samuel March 12, 2021 at 6:08 pm #

    Hi All,
    Just in case of use, I thought I’d link to some of the preliminary evidence around the impact of different vaccines on transmission.

    This is from Pfizer this week, based on data from Israel in relation to its vaccine:

    https://www.pfizer.com/news/press-release/press-release-detail/real-world-evidence-confirms-high-effectiveness-pfizer

    This government/Public Helath England-study was quite widely reported last month

    https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3790399

    And this is what the US’s CDC has to say as of this week

    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/fully-vaccinated-people.htm

    There may well be other studies/ccomments out there so apologies for not finding others.