The government are set to enforce that all NHS staff must be vaccinated in England from April as more than 100,000 are not vaccinated.
NHS staff have warned that if the government does enforce this then it could “backfire” on them.
Professor Helen Bedford, of UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, said, “When there is concern about less than optimal vaccine uptake rates, making vaccination mandatory can seem the obvious solution but it can backfire.
“It may make people who are just unsure about vaccination more resistant.
“The reasons that health care staff may not be taking up the vaccine are similar to those in the general population with concerns about safety or necessity of vaccination always top of the list.
“However, access to vaccination or difficulties booking an appointment may also be a barrier for some people.”
Unison head of health Sara Gorton has warned that “it’s really risky” by bringing in mandatory vaccinations.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “We’ve been keen to ensure that what our role is, is understanding what people are telling us about the reasons why they have fears, about why they are not convinced by the arguments, and making sure that those people can get access to up-to-date information and access to experts who may be able to help them change their mind.
“And we’ve been really keen to be part of that process.
“So this isn’t about saying that it’s wrong, the vaccination programme is wrong, it’s saying that it is wrong to leap to the law, rather than stick with persuasion, conversation, peer group support to try and increase those rates beyond what is, let’s face it, a really, really high existing level of vaccination amongst NHS staff.”
She described the move to bring in mandatory vaccinations as “really risky”, saying that it could have “really, really difficult consequences for the NHS in what we know is going to be a really difficult winter.”
The GMB Union, which represents NHS staff, has spoken out against “legally enforced medical procedures as a condition of employment”.
Rachel Harrison, of GMB said, “A large survey of GMB members across social care, ambulance and the NHS showed almost 60% do not support making the vaccine compulsory, with up to 12% of workers in some ambulance trusts unvaccinated.
“Bulldozing this vaccine will exacerbate the already crushing staffing crisis we face across the NHS and ambulance services.
“Both are operating under extreme pressures, after a decade of austerity and cuts, with an exhausted and demoralised workforce who are fearful of what is to come as we head through winter.
“Staff are already leaving their employment and this will certainly force many more to go, as we are currently witnessing in adult residential social care as a result of this legislative change to their employment.”