UK May Impose Mandatory Coronavirus Vaccines on Healthcare Staff: Report

WREXHAM, WALES - NOVEMBER 30: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wearing a hair net and face covering, poses for a photograph with a vial as he views the last minute quality testing of the 'fill and finish' stage of the manufacturing process of COVID-19 vaccines, during his visit to Wockhardt's …
Paul Ellis - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The British government is reportedly planning on changing the law in order to force National Health Service (NHS) staff into taking the coronavirus vaccine, ostensibly to safeguard hospitals from future outbreaks.

In the coming weeks, government ministers are expected to launch an amendment to the Health and Social Care Act 2008 that would mandate that elderly care homes only employ workers who have received a coronavirus jab, with a carve-out for those with a medical exemption, such as allergies to vaccines.

Government officials are now looking to extend this to the entire NHS, in a bid to “save lives”, The Telegraph reported.

“There are very early conversations taking place. This has been driven by feedback from the social care consultation on mandating. It would save lives and there is precedent with the guidance for doctors to get the hepatitis B vaccine,” a Whitehall source told the newspaper.

The government is said to be concerned with the relatively low take-up of the vaccine among ethnic minority healthcare workers, who have disproportionately turned down the jab compared to their white counterparts.

In January, the government’s top health quango, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), issued a report claiming that “structural and institutional racism and discrimination” played a central role in the hesitancy to take the vaccine among minority groups.

Should the government go through with the plan to force healthcare workers to take the vaccine, they would likely see legal challenges brought on grounds of discrimination.

While the coronavirus pandemic has seemingly subsided in Britain amid the relatively successful vaccination drive, with daily death rates falling to the low single digits, ministers remain concerned that some 12 per cent of NHS healthcare workers have refused to take the vaccine. This number jumps to 20 per cent when just looking at NHS staff in London.

A Facebook group entitled “NHS workers for choice, no restrictions for declining a vaccine” has so far gained over 2,600 members.

In March, Health Secretary Matt Hancock used the requirement for NHS doctors to have a hepatitis B vaccine as a precedent for the possible forced coronavirus vaccines.

“Making vaccines a condition of deployment is something many care homes have called for to help them provide greater protection for staff and residents in older people’s care homes and so save lives,” Hancock argued.

Aside from requiring health care workers to take the vaccine, leading health experts have called upon the government to start vaccinating children as young as 12 years old.

The deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), Professor Anthony Harnden, said: “Clearly with children there are a range of different options that involve whether we select certain children to be immunised on the basis of risk. We do know that the majority of children do not have a huge risk of complications.

“Whether we vaccinate for educational purposes, whether we vaccinate to protect others in the population — these are the ethical issues.”

To date, nearly 64 million people have been received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, representing three-quarters of the British public. Approximately one in two British adults has received both doses of the jab.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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