A government consultation has begun on whether to extend the requirement (effective 11th Nov) for those working in care homes to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to wider frontline health and social care settings and whether this should also be required for flu. A recent survey carried out by the Care Workers Union shows 57% of health and social care workers (HCW) disagree with the vaccine becoming mandatory and 37% of HCW will seriously consider leaving the sector if this measure is introduced. On the other hand, 37% of HCW agree with the vaccines against flu and Covid-19 being made mandatory and 77% have already had their vaccinations. This last statistic in particular reminds us not to equate a lack of support for the mandatory vaccine with anti-vaccine sentiment generally. In fact, it seems that many of the 57% who disagree with the mandatory vaccine actually agree with the measure in principle but worry that it would result in the sector collapsing if those staff who have threatened to resign in protest hold good on their promise. The health and social care sector is already understaffed and overworked, and a staff reduction of nearly 40% would be catastrophic. Needless to say, the government needs to properly consider and make public the measures it will take to protect against such an eventuality. Hopefully this consultation will prioritise those considerations.
There was a mix of comments left underneath the survey. Some people expressed views in favour of the mandatory vaccination, others against. One comment read, ‘I think it is irresponsible of workers NOT to be vaccinated’ and another that ‘I don’t believe the government should be able to force people to take medication. If this is brought in, I will leave the industry [sic].’ Many of those against the mandatory vaccine see it as a human rights issue, while others pointed out that ‘there are many jobs across different sectors in which there are exemptions from the [H]uman [R]ights [A]ct [sic]’. Many commenters fear the ‘huge losses’ that could result from resignations in protest of the mandatory vaccine: ‘People believe it is their right to choose and will leave the profession rather than get vaccinated — social care is already struggling for staff’; ‘I understand the rational[e]. However, people may still die as a consequence of mandating [sic].’
The health and social care sector has already lost a lot of staff due to Brexit and there are fears it would not be able to survive another cut. Although anxieties about the vaccine are not supported by the science and mandating it may seem like the easiest way to protect elderly and vulnerable people, the government needs to seriously consider how it would respond if 40% of health and social care workers resigned from their posts – which would also, needless to say, put elderly and vulnerable people at great risk – a risk as great as that posed by the pandemic itself. While the majority of the group we surveyed said they would not resign if vaccination became mandatory, the 37% minority who said they would is large enough to have catastrophic effects on the state of the sector and those remaining are understandably concerned. It is the government’s responsibility to put in place contingencies for all possible outcomes. It is also the government’s responsibility to take into account the voices of the people who will be affected by the legislation they are debating – not just the providers, but the workers themselves. What comes through this survey, most of all, is a sense of frustration at not being listened to.
About the Care Workers Union
The Care Workers Union is a new trade union representing care workers across the UK. No other trade union stands up solely for care workers, therefore we are focused entirely on improving care workers’ rights and working conditions.
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