British authorities will require workers in English nursing homes for the elderly to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, health minister Matt Hancock said in parliament. The vaccination obligation may later also apply to other healthcare employees.
Hancock emphasized that vaccinated people protect not only themselves but also the people around them. The obligation to vaccinate must prevent the elderly from becoming infected and dying. The minister considers it sensible and reasonable that the duty should apply to people who work with “the most vulnerable people” in society.
Employees who do not want to be vaccinated risk transfer or dismissal, according to the BBC. The new regulations would not cover people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. It may not end with a vaccination obligation for nursing home staff. The government is considering making vaccinations mandatory for all healthcare workers. Research is being done.
Such a vaccination requirement is very sensitive. Healthcare organizations have warned that it is already challenging to find enough staff. They fear that employees will soon leave because of the vaccination obligation. The Guardian newspaper predicts that the government will also face a legal battle. Healthcare workers will probably argue in court that they have the right to decide what happens to their bodies.
The intention is that nursing home employees will be given 16 weeks to be vaccinated. The government wants to do something about the relatively low vaccination coverage among some nursing home staff. According to the BBC, there are still many locations where less than 80 percent of employees have been vaccinated.
Authorities have already tried to persuade more employees to get vaccinated voluntarily. There were targeted advertising campaigns, according to the BBC, and vaccination teams were sent to nursing homes. A vaccination requirement would not be entirely new. Some health care providers are already required to be vaccinated against hepatitis B.