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UK Government Launches Consultation on Making Vaccination Compulsory for NHS Workforce

Jonathan Walker
Jonathan loves talking politics, economics and philosophy. He carries unique perspectives on everything making him a rather odd mix of liberal-conservative with a streak of independent Austrian thought.
Published: September 15, 2021
UK government is looking at whether to mandate vaccinations for NHS staff members.
UK government is looking at whether to mandate vaccinations for NHS staff members. (Image: WiR_Pixs via Pixabay)

The UK government is considering making full COVID-19 vaccination a requirement for employment at the National Health Service (NHS). Last week, the government launched a consultation on the issue, exploring mandatory vaccination for all frontline healthcare staff.

According to a report from the Department of Health and Social Care, staff may be required to take COVID-19 and flu shots to “protect patients from infection, serious illness, or death.” Ninety-two percent of NHS employees have already taken one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine; 88 percent are fully vaccinated.

The consultation will run for six weeks. If the vaccine mandate moves ahead, “It would mean only those who are fully vaccinated, unless medically exempt, could be deployed to deliver health and care services,” the report states.

The UK government argues that making vaccinations mandatory for NHS professionals is not a novel concept. For example, surgeons have had to take mandatory Hepatitis B vaccines.

Critics have objected to the consultation since many NHS members have already been vaccinated. Lawyers believe that there is a possibility of legal challenges as the government changes the contract conditions of 1.2 million NHS workers. A blanket condition applied to all employees might be seen as unlawful discrimination. Unvaccinated employees could be reassigned to back-end roles or be dismissed.

Policymakers have already established legislation for mandatory vaccination of professionals in adult care homes. Existing law states that all staff members working for social care facilities regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) must complete their vaccination prior to Nov. 11 unless exempt.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Institute of Health and Social Care Management, one-third of care home managers said that some of their staff members had resigned over the mandatory vaccination requirement. 

Half of the respondents expressed concerns about having to terminate staff who will not comply with the mandate during the upcoming months. According to government estimates, roughly 40,000 out of 500,000 care home staff might not be vaccinated by the Nov. 11 deadline.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization had recently advised against vaccinating kids 12 to 15 years old. The government is reportedly considering whether to reject the advice. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has stated that younger teens looking to get vaccinated should be allowed to do so even if it is against their parent’s wishes. “As long as we believe the child is competent enough to make this decision, then the child’s will will prevail,” Javid said.

Interestingly, one needs to be 18 years old to play the National Lottery and at least 17 in the UK to drive a car. An individual under 18 years of age can be fined or arrested if found drinking alcohol.