Mandatory vaccination against coronavirus of care home staff is “unnecessary, disproportionate, and misguided”, academics have warned.
Government plans to make Covid-19 jabs a condition of deployment for care home staff in England is a “profound departure from public health norms”, according to experts writing in the BMJ.
From October all people working in care homes registered with the Care Quality Commission must have two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, unless they have a medical exemption.
The move, which follows a public consultation, is subject to parliamentary approval and a 16-week grace period.
It is a controversial decision, with sector leaders warning about the impact it could have on already-stretched staffing levels.
Lydia Hayes, Professor of Law at Kent University and Allyson Pollock, Professor of Public Health at Newcastle University, say vaccination “will not remedy the serious shortcomings of the care sector in England.”
It is disingenuous for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to say it is “not forcing” anyone to get a jab, when the cost of not doing so is being unable to continue in their occupation, they say.
They write in the BMJ: “Civil liberty is a necessary component of strong public health.
“Mandatory vaccination is unnecessary and disproportionate. It will not remedy the serious shortcomings of the care sector in England.
“Safety can be assured only by taking steps to build trust and to mitigate outbreaks.
“Care workers need paid time in which to access vaccination and good training, decent wages (including sick pay), personal protective equipment, and strong infection control measures.
“Mandatory vaccination in residential care is unnecessary, disproportionate, and misguided.”
Latest figures suggest that around one in four staff in older adult care homes in England eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine have not had both jabs.
A total of 73.9% of eligible staff were reported to be fully vaccinated as of June 27, as were 92.5% of eligible residents, according to NHS England.
The local authority with the lowest percentage is Wandsworth in London, with 53.3% of eligible staff having both vaccine doses.
Overall, 85.6% of eligible staff have had their first dose, and 95.7% of eligible residents.
According to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), 80% of staff and 90% of residents in each setting need to have received a first dose to provide a minimum level of protection against Covid-19 outbreaks.
A DHSC spokeswoman said: “Vaccines save lives and while staff and residents in care homes have been prioritised and the majority are now vaccinated, we need to do everything we can to keep reducing the risk for the most vulnerable.
“Through our extensive public consultation we have listened to the experiences and concerns of providers and people living and working in care homes to help shape our approach.
“We continue to work with the care sector to drive uptake among adult social care and care home staff to protect vulnerable people, particularly in the 21 English local authorities where less than 80% of care workers in older adult care homes have a Covid-19 vaccine.”