The UK government has opened a consultation on the mandatory Covid-19 vaccination of staff at care homes for elderly people in England, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.
“We have decided to take this proposal forward to protect residents,” Hancock told MPs in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
He said the government is looking at compulsory Covid
-19 jabs for all workers in care homes and the National Health Service (NHS) “as a condition of deployment.”
In response to a question about compulsory vaccinations for other key workers and the wider population, Hancock said: “I do not agree with mandatory vaccination of the public.”
He added: “But for those who have a duty to care in an environment that includes some of the most vulnerable in the country, I think that this is a sensible and reasonable step.”
Hancock’s announcement comes after he and the government drew intense backlash over allegations that they did not prevent Covid
-19 spreading through care homes at the height of the pandemic.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
’s former chief Dominic Cummings last month claimed Hancock lied to the PM by telling him that all care home residents hospitalised with Covid
-19 would be tested for the virus before being discharged. Hancock has denied lying over the initial lack of testing, which Cummings said had resulted in thousands of fatalities.
On Wednesday the BBC, citing anonymous sources, reported that Covid
-19 jabs will become mandatory for all care home staff. If workers fail to get vaccinated within an allotted 16-week period they could lose their job or be redeployed, the broadcaster reported.
Around 40% of care homes in England have vaccinated at least 80% of staff and 90% of residents so far, the latest data from NHS England shows.