Staff in English care homes with older adults may be required to have a COVID-19 vaccine in a bid to tackle hesitancy within the sector.
Government scientists on the social care working group of SAGE believe four out of five staff need to be vaccinated to provide a minimum level of protection against outbreaks of COVID-19 but only just over half of older adult homes in England are currently meeting this threshold.
Currently, the staff vaccination rate is below 80% in 89 local authority areas - more than half - with 27 local authority areas with a staff vaccination rate below 70%.
Several issues have contributed to care staff not taking up the vaccine offer, including transport issues, provider issues around pay and release of staff, and lack of sick pay in case of adverse reactions.
A five-week consultation will be launched today looking to require care home providers to deploy only those workers who have received their COVID-19 vaccination.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Making vaccines a condition of deployment is something many care homes have called for to help them provide greater protection for staff and residents in older people’s care homes and so save lives.
‘We have a duty of care to those most vulnerable to COVID-19 so it is right we consider all options to keep people safe.’
Vaccines have been offered to staff and residents at all eligible care homes, with the vast majority of homes having now had repeat visits.
But general secretary at trade union Unison, Christina McAnea, warned: ‘Too heavy-handed an approach could backfire badly. Some staff may simply up and go, leaving a poorly paid sector already struggling with thousands and thousands of vacancies in a terrible state.’