The government has announced it will scrap plans to make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for all health workers in England. The proposal had divided opinion, with those opposed claiming it was a violation of their freedom of choice. But health minister Sajid Javid has indicated that it is no longer the intention to make it compulsory for NHS workers to have the jab.
“Subject to the responses…the government will revoke the regulations,” Javid said. “While vaccination remains our very best line of defence against Covid-19 I believe that it is no longer proportionate to require vaccination as a condition of deployment.”
How many people are vaccinated?
According to Our World in Data, 71% of people in the UK are fully vaccinated against the virus. Another 5.6% are partly vaccinated. That means that just under a quarter (around 23%) have not had any form of jab.
Meanwhile, statistics released in December 2021 revealed that 90.7% of NHS staff have had had two doses of the jab – a significantly higher proportion when compared to the rest of the country as a whole.
What were the original plans?
In November 2021, it was announced that all employees in the NHS would need to be fully vaccinated by April 1st, which would mean receiving their initial jabs in early February. At the time, the Department of Health felt that was “the right thing to do to protect patients”.
Workers were also warned that failure to comply with the mandate could result in them being sacked or moved into a different position. This in turn raised concerns of major staff shortages at a time where the service is already undermanned.
What was the backlash?
A number of people – including some within the Conservative Party – voiced their disapproval at the decision. In January, there were calls to delay the deadline attached to the mandate, while several protests were staged in cities around the UK as NHS workers and those sympathetic to their cause took to the streets to demonstrate their opposition to the move.
There were even examples of employees who quit their jobs, disillusioned with the way they were being treated after being vaunted as heroes during earlier stages of the pandemic.
What happens now?
With the mandate scrapped, those who do not wish to have the vaccination can continue in their positions without having to worry about the potential repercussions. However, there are still a myriad of wider issues facing the service, such as fair pay and staff shortages.
Now that these controversial plans have been revoked, it may intensify calls for government to do more for these workers. Some companies offer NHS discounts to current and retired healthcare staff, but many will feel that those in power should be displaying a greater commitment to protecting an institution that helps millions of people every year.