Workplaces May Need To Keep Strict PPE And Infection Controls Long After The Vaccine

Care homes have already seen some staff are unable or unwilling to get the Covid-19 jab – and bosses can't afford to take any risks.

Workplaces will have to continue using strict PPE and other infection control measures long after the Covid vaccine becomes available if employees can’t or refuse to have the jab.

In the absence of any legislation that states workers must have the vaccine, employers can encourage take-up but can’t force it, and there is nothing to stop people from continuing to work.

It is already causing issues in some care homes.

Nadra Ahmed, from the National Care Association (NCA) says information from members and other industry bodies suggest the number of people refusing to have the jab is falling, but some 6-7% of care staff still remain nervous or resistant due to health and cultural reasons, as well as misinformation from anti-vaccination groups.

That figure was at between 18-20% at the start of the vaccine rollout, despite repeated calls from Boris Johnson for everyone to get the jab when it is their turn.

Ahmed told HuffPost UK: “We have care providers asking us what they should do because they’ve got staff who are refusing to take the vaccine.

Offices with workers who can't or won't have the vaccine must continue to practice infection control measures including the use of PPE (file picture)
Offices with workers who can't or won't have the vaccine must continue to practice infection control measures including the use of PPE (file picture)
mixetto via Getty Images

“The pressure is on our services to make sure that we can keep everyone as safe as physically possible. So we fell into this really challenging scenario. We don’t force our staff to have the flu vaccine which is available to us now, so there is precedent.

“The legal advice is absolutely clear, that you can encourage people, but you can’t make anybody have it. And that’s where we sit.”

Ahmed says the fall in the numbers is down to a push from providers to address fears and anxieties and the body is committed to continuing a myth-busting thrust to provide information. She added that many were now being persuaded as they saw colleagues receive the jab.

She said: “We know there are some providers who have got figures as high as 25% of people who are not willing to have the vaccine in their services and then we’ve got some who have got as low as 4% or just one member of staff who is saying they don’t have to have it.

“Currently they are allowed to continue working because there’s no legislation to say that they have to have it. And the only way that matter would change, would be if employment law recognised any legislative requirement and there isn’t one.

“What you also have to remember is that before this vaccine came along, we have got services which have not had Covid in them, they’ve used PPE, they’ve used infection control measures, they’ve locked down when they’ve needed to, they’ve been very careful about who they’ve let in, so we’ve done probably a good ten months without the vaccine.

“The vaccine is a really essential tool in our armoury and it’s one that we want people to understand will make a substantial difference in the way that we operate.

“But if you’ve got a few members of staff who are not going to have the vaccine for example, you’ve still got to carry on with all your infection control measures which includes PPE.”

Some people, including those who are pregnant or have had a severe allergic reaction to any of the vaccine ingredients, or experience anaphylaxis after the first dose, cannot receive the vaccine.

HuffPost UK is also aware of some healthy male workers who have opted out of having the vaccine while they try to conceive children, given the lack of testing done in this area.

Others simply refuse to have it, sparking Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England to brand “anti-vaxxers” who do so without medical grounds “a serious and growing public health timebomb.”

Anti-vaccination groups have been blamed for some parents in the UK not allowing their children to have the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) and health secretary Matt Hancock has said in the past that he “wouldn’t rule out anything” when asked whether unvaccinated children should be banned from schools.

Data obtained by the PA news agency last week has shown between 5% and 21% of care home staff offered a vaccine have declined it. One large care group, which asked to remain anonymous, said 21% of staff and 2.7% of residents offered the vaccine had chosen not to take it up, with data suggesting that younger workers were more likely to be hesitant.

There is currently no centralised data from the NHS or government on how many care home residents and staff have been given the vaccine and how many have refused the jab.

Anna Selby, head of the Covid-19 taskforce at Sunrise Senior Living and Gracewell Healthcare’s 46 care homes said those those refusing the vaccine tend to be younger staff and there appears to be a “feeling of invincibility”.

She said: “I think it could go two ways: either we will start to see this rise because all those who wanted it have taken the slots and all those who don’t want it will start refusing [when offered it].

“The other thing that could happen is more and more people are being vaccinated and talking about their lives opening up again, and people will feel a bit silly for not wanting it and they’ll jump aboard.”

Nadhim Zahawi, the minister in charge of the vaccine, has said the government will seek to persuade people to have the jab rather than forcing them into it. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme last week, he said: “I think, as the prime minister has said, we’re not the sort of country that forces people to take vaccines, we want to do it by persuasion.”

His comments came after news that Charlie Mullins, founder of Pimlico Plumbers, is insisting that employees have the jab.

Speaking to LBC Radio, Mullins said: “It’s an employer’s right to protect and look after their employees.”

He said he would not put staff and customers at risk unnecessarily, and that in future the company would not be taking on anybody that had not been vaccinated.

But when asked about Pimlico Plumbers’ policy, Zahawi replied: “I think that is discriminatory.”

There are signs these “myth-busting” campaigns, such as that adopted by the NCA, are working. A recent YouGov poll indicated that 81% of people in the UK have or will take up the vaccine – an increase of 20% since when they were first surveyed.


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