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31 Jan, 2022 09:13

UK to U-turn on mandatory Covid jabs policy – reports

The government is set to scrap its plans to force healthcare workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19, according to reports
UK to U-turn on mandatory Covid jabs policy – reports

On Monday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid will convene ministers to discuss the impact of a vaccine mandate for healthcare professionals and social care workers, according to the Telegraph. 

The paper reported that the government is now in favor of a U-turn on the vaccine mandate, amid warnings that some 80,000 healthcare workers could be pushed out of a job after they rejected their Covid jabs. 

A senior government source told the Telegraph that the emergence of the Omicron variant had changed the government’s thinking. 

“Omicron has changed things. When we first introduced the policy, it was delta that was the dominant variant. That was very high risk in terms of how severe it was,” the source said.

“For omicron, while it is more transmissible, all the studies have shown it is less severe. That has changed the conversation about whether mandatory jabs are still proportionate.”

Multiple government sources said ministers were now in favor of scrapping the vaccine mandate, the Telegraph reported.

Speaking on Monday, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke told Sky that the government was considering the change.

“We do recognise those realities and that does open a space where we can look at this again,” he told Sky. 

Javid had already suggested that he was prepared to change tack, telling a parliamentary committee that the mandatory jabs policy was being kept “under review.”

The vaccine mandate for staff is due to be implemented from April, making February 3 the last day workers can be inoculated with their first jab to be fully vaccinated by the spring deadline. 

It is already a legal requirement for care home staff to be fully vaccinated. When the mandate came into force in November, an estimated 40,000 people lost their jobs over the policy. The review may allow these people to return to work in the sector, according to the Telegraph. 

Vaccine hesitancy among NHS staff was well reported when the inoculation campaign began in late 2020 and early 2021. In February 2021, then-health secretary Matt Hancock begged BAME health workers to get the jab, amid data which suggested vaccine uptake among black staff was half the NHS’s average.