Less than one in five care staff vaccinated against flu or boosted against Covid, figures reveal

Data comes with severe pressures on NHS being driven in part by high circulation of respiratory viruses

A doctor giving a woman a Covid vaccination
Photo: hedgehog94/Adobe Stock

Less than one in five adult social care staff have been vaccinated against flu or received their autumn booster jab for Covid-19, according to government figures.

The low rates come with the two viruses being a significant cause of the current severe pressures on the NHS and amid significant workforce shortages in social care.

The Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) monthly adult social care data, released last week, showed that, as of the week ending 18 December 2022:

  • 17.9% of staff in older adult care homes had received an autumn booster for Covid and 13.8% had had a flu vaccine for the 2022-23 winter season.
  • 15.8% of staff in younger adult care homes had received a Covid booster and 11.8% a flu vaccine.
  • 15.7% of domiciliary care staff had received their Covid booster and 11.7% a flu vaccine.

NHS England is currently urging social care staff to get both the Covid booster and the flu vaccine, to help protect the people they care for, as well as themselves and their families.

During December, 7,273 beds were taken up by Covid-19 patients on average, and 2,925 taken up by people with flu, compared with 33 flu beds and 7,055 Covid beds in December 2021, it said last week.

This was among the sources of current NHS pressures that have resulted in bed occupancy and the number of ambulance callouts reaching record levels this winter.

Workforce pressures

The relatively low vaccination rates also come amid severe shortages of social care staff.

The vacancy rate for adult care staff in England climbed from 7% to 10.7% in the year to March 2022, and has increased since, to 11.2% in October 2022, according to Skills for Care data from a selection of providers.

The situation is particularly bad in home care, where 14.1% of posts were vacant as of October last year, up from 13.2% in March 2022.

The DHSC figures showed that staff absence due to Covid remained relatively low, at 0.6% of care home and home care staff, in the week up to 14 December 2022. This is down from highs of 2.9% for care home staff and just under  5% of domiciliary care workers in January last year.

However, social care staff appear to have been worst affected by long Covid, among occupational groups, with an estimated 5.5% of staff reporting symptoms such as fatigue and problems concentrating several weeks after being infected with the virus.

Barriers to vaccination

In response to the level of vaccination rates among social care staff, the Homecare Association said true uptake may be higher than the published figures, but there were also barriers to staff getting jabbed.

“The Homecare Association strongly supports vaccination of the homecare workforce and we lobbied hard, right from the beginning, to ensure it was as easy as possible for homecare workers to access Covid-19 vaccinations and every year we encourage uptake of the flu jab,” said chief executive Jane Townson.

“Many care workers have had multiple jabs over the past few years and vaccine fatigue may be setting in, coupled with the Covid-19 vaccination not preventing infection and some perceiving it as “just a cold”. Others fear a reaction to the vaccines, which could mean they have to take time off work without pay, as zero-hour contracts are common in home care. There are questions about accuracy of the data on vaccination uptake.

“Care workers may choose not to disclose their vaccination status and, with current operational pressures, many managers do not have time to chase staff to collect data. It is important that we continue to encourage vaccine uptake through persuasion and address genuine fears that some have.”

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2 Responses to Less than one in five care staff vaccinated against flu or boosted against Covid, figures reveal

  1. Chris Sterry January 16, 2023 at 6:19 pm #

    I would encourage everyone to have both the COVID- 19 and Flu vaccinations to enable them to have the full possible protection possible and in doing so protect others, but I can see the reasons of some not to.

    This is especially so in Social Care for if they do get a reaction from the vaccinations the loss of earnings they would suffer will be extremely dire to them, especially as their pay rate is so low to start with and the lack of sick pay for the first 3 days being off work. As for many just working all the possible hours could well be insufficient to support themselves and even more so if they have a family.

    Then with the lifting of restrictions by Johnson this gave the impression to many of the UK workforce including those in social care that vaccines for COVID and then the flu were not worth bothering with.

    When Nadhim Zahawi MP was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment much was heard about the importance of having the vaccines, but hardly any mention from his successor to the role in September 2021. This was Maggie Throup MP in the revised role of Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Vaccines and Public Health. With her lack of prominence this further lead to the belief that the vaccine was not now that important, but so mistaken.

    The Johnson Partygate scandal was, also to blame for some of the indifference to COVID.

    But vaccine fatigue would also have been a factor and still is with the still mistaken beliefs that the vaccine is not proven and in some instances causes COVID.

    In some instances there could also be the mistaken belief that with the severe shortage of care workers and that COVID was no longer of any significance due to its apparent mild nature which again is to some extent not totally true, for even a mild occurrence of COVID could well lead to severe and long standing Long COVID experiences, going into work is more desired.

    Now with the increases in inflation and the cost of living crisis these are now considered more important than COVID and while they are very important COVID is still around and could well be for much time to come.

    So much more is required to improve the standing of social care and social care workers and that has to be a much needed and deserved increase in their rate of pay, at least another £3/4 per hour, bring their rate of pay to £14/15 per hours and much more improved working conditions, a proper sick pay arrangement for one.

    Care workers are very much maligned and deserve so much more respect from all quarters of the UK, especially this Government.

  2. Annie1x January 22, 2023 at 3:33 pm #

    I am not comfortable with a vaccine that has been developed in such a short space of time. We don’t understand the long term effects of this vaccine moreover, there are scientific studies now being published exploring side effects.