An intensive care doctor who challenged the health secretary, Sajid Javid, over compulsory Covid vaccines for NHS staff has launched a legal bid against the government to end the policy.
Dr Steve James, who is unvaccinated and works as an anaesthetist at King’s College hospital, is seeking a judicial review with seven other medical professionals. It would look at the lawfulness of the decision to require health professionals to be jabbed.
The government directive requires all NHS staff in England who have direct contact with patients to get two Covid-19 vaccinations by 1 April or risk losing their jobs. However, critics have argued that imposing a deadline could lead to staff shortages.
James and other NHS staff, represented by the legal firm Jackson Osborne, have submitted a document to the high court calling for a review. The document argues the decision to impose the mandate “is itself unlawful, irrational, and disproportionate”.
James became known to the public after he confronted Javid as the minister visited King’s College hospital in south London.
In an encounter captured by Sky News, Javid had asked doctors and nurses what they thought about government plans to require vaccination for all NHS staff. After a brief silence, the consultant anaesthetist, who has been working throughout the pandemic, said: “I’m not happy about that.”
James told Javid: “I’ve had Covid at some point, I’ve got antibodies, and I’ve been working on Covid ITUs since the beginning; I have not had a vaccination, I do not want to have a vaccination. The vaccine is reducing transmission only for about eight weeks with Delta. With Omicron it’s probably less. And for that I would be dismissed if I don’t have a vaccine? The science isn’t strong enough.”
“That’s your view,” Javid replied. Turning to a group of nurses, he asked: “And your views?” However, they did not respond. Turning back to James, Javid continued: “I respect that but there are also many different views.”
Javid added: “I understand that but obviously we have to weigh all that up for both health and social care, and there will always be a debate about it.”
James replied: “Maybe there is an opportunity to reconsider with Omicron and the changing picture, or at least the nuance that will allow doctors who have had antibody exposure, who’ve got antibodies, who haven’t had the vaccination, to not have it, because the protection I’ve got is probably equivalent to someone who is vaccinated.”