One in three care home workers turned down vaccine, JCVI boss tells MPs

24 February 2021, 13:51

All care home residents and staff were offered a Covid vaccine by 15 February.
All care home residents and staff were offered a Covid vaccine by 15 February. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

One in three care home workers have turned down the Covid vaccine, the deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has told MPs.

All care home staff were offered a vaccine alongside residents by 15 February, in recognition of the tens of thousands of care home residents who have died with Covid during the pandemic.

However, Professor Anthony Harnden revealed that while over 90 percent of doctors and 80 percent of nurses have taken up the vaccine, “we do have a problem in terms of vaccine coverage” amongst care home staff, where only 66 percent have taken up the jab.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he hoped care staff will listen to Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, who said they have a "professional responsibility" to get vaccinated.

Read more: Vaccine support surges ‘massively,' but Brexit voters less likely to take it - study shows

Read more: 150,000 more people with learning disabilities to be prioritised for Covid-10 jabs

On Tuesday, shadow social care minister Liz Kendall called on Mr Hancock to "urgently set out precisely how the Government will increase uptake" of the vaccine among care home staff.

"We're absolutely all on the same side in this,” he said. “The challenge is uptake, so rather than having a political ding dong about it, what we all need to do is get the positive messages out about the vaccination programme.

“I'm delighted that the care minister and the vaccine deployment minister have both been working incredibly hard at this.”

Read more: Boris Johnson told to 'have a word' with lockdown data sceptic Tory MPs

Asked by the Science and Technology Committee whether NHS and care home staff should be forced to have a vaccine, Prof Harnden said he did not think we were at that stage.

"Surgeons require hepatitis B vaccine to operate so they don't transmit hepatitis B to their patients. I don't think we're quite there with Covid.”

"We've never gone along the route of compulsory vaccination in this country and I think it's something we would need to debate more at a political level.

Read more: 'No problems' with Covid-19 vaccine supply chain, Williamson tells LBC

Deputy Chair of JCVI, Professor Anthony Harden, was speaking to MPs.
Deputy Chair of JCVI, Professor Anthony Harden, was speaking to MPs. Picture: House of Commons/PA

"There could be an argument, I agree, that if these vaccines prevent transmission - it was one of our rationales to put frontline healthcare workers in priority group two - was not only their exposure risk but that they were also treating lots of vulnerable older people who could potentially get the virus from them - would need to have some consideration.

"I don't know where we are going with this, it certainly wouldn't be a JCVI decision to make it compulsory."

Rules on care home visits will be relaxed from 8 March following the vaccine rollout.
Rules on care home visits will be relaxed from 8 March following the vaccine rollout. Picture: PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has so far stressed that the vaccine will not be made mandatory, telling Parliament in December that such measures are “not part of our culture or ambition”.

However, on Tuesday, he told reporters at a school in south London that a review on vaccine passports will be launched.

Read more: Gavin Williamson questioned over vaccine passports

"This is an area where we're looking at a novelty for our country, we haven't had stuff like this before, we've never thought in terms of having something that you have to show to go to a pub or a theatre.

"There are deep and complex issues that we need to explore, and ethical issues about what the role is for government in mandating or for people to have such a thing or indeed in banning from people doing such a thing.”