UK Govt Planning to Force Healthcare Workers to Take Vaccine: Report

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 08: British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson watches as nurse Rebecca Cathersides administers the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Lyn Wheeler at Guy's Hospital at the start of the largest ever immunisation programme in the UK's history on December 8, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. More than 50 …
Frank Augstein - Pool / Getty Images

The British government is reportedly planning to make vaccines for the Chinese coronavirus mandatory for healthcare workers, in a move described by unions as “sinister”.

Amid reports of vaccine refusal among some segments of Britain’s socialised healthcare system, the National Health Service (NHS), the government is said to be considering forced inoculations for healthcare staff.

The government is currently reviewing plans that would see healthcare workers forced to take the vaccine or face exclusion from vaccine passport eligibility, the Daily Mail reported.

“It is extraordinary that so many people in the health sector appear to have turned down the vaccine,’ a Cabinet source told the paper.

A government spokesman added: “While it is for Government and parliament to decide which groups of people are required to get the vaccine, the NHS national medical director and chief nurse agree with Chris Whitty, with the chairman of the BMA and other professional leaders that NHS staff have a duty to be vaccinated unless they have a valid clinical reason not to do so.”

Though the government is said to be reticent to fire healthcare workers who refuse the jab, they may instead opt to demote the staff to non-front line positions.

The plans have sparked widespread backlash, considering the fact that the government has consistently claimed that vaccinations in Britain will be voluntary.

The general secretary of Unison, a leading NHS union, Christina McAnea said: “Forced vaccinations are the wrong way to go, and send out a sinister and worrying message.”

“Encouragement and persuasion rather than threats and bullying are key to a successful programme, as ministers themselves have repeatedly indicated. Mandatory jabs are counterproductive and likely to make those who are hesitant even more so. This will do nothing to help health and care sectors that are already chronically understaffed,” she added.

The government has also previously denied that it would roll out a vaccine passport for people domestically, for example to go to the pub or the supermarket.

However, a review of how to implement such a scheme is currently being undertaken by Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who expressly shot down the idea in December. The forced vaccination scheme for healthcare workers is reportedly being considered as a part of the review.

On Tuesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “It is clear that we will need to provide people with the ability to certify whether they have had the jab. And we will need to absolutely take into consideration those who have a certified clinical reason why they can’t have the jab.”

Some 200,000 NHS and care home employees are believed to have refused to take the vaccine across the country.

While this means that over 90 per cent of all healthcare workers have had the injection, the number in certain localities is much lower, particularly in London where nearly a quarter of NHS workers have turned down the jab, despite having priority access.

The government has reportedly been concerned with a hesitancy among so-called BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) groups to take the vaccine.

A review carried out last month at the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London found that only a quarter of black and Filipino staff had taken the vaccine,  as compared to 80 per cent of staff as a whole.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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