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Calls to scrap mandatory jab policy as vaccination deadline looms

Calls to scrap mandatory jab policy as vaccination deadline looms
By Beth Gault
16 September 2021

The union for care workers, GMB, has called for the mandatory vaccination policy to be dropped or face losing tens of thousands of key workers, as the deadline for staff to be double vaccinated approaches.

Today (16 September) is the final day for staff who work in a care home to be vaccinated with their first dose in order to meet the deadline of being fully vaccinated by 11 November, according to government guidance.

However, Rachel Harrison, GMB national officer, said: ‘Forcing vaccination of our key workers is not the way to address vaccine hesitancy.   

‘Care is already facing a staffing black hole of 170,000 by the end of the year. Even in a best-case scenario we will lose tens of thousands of key workers if the jab is forced on them.  

‘How will care bosses deal with these huge staffing vacancies. How can they reassure people residents will receive safe care?  

‘If employers and ministers are to tackle the vacancy crisis then they must drop this policy, fix poverty sick pay rates, and raise pay – GMB is demanding no less than the £15 an hour that care workers deserve.’

In May, the union found that around 34% of care workers said they would consider leaving the profession as a result of mandatory vaccination policy, after a survey of over 1,000 care workers.

It comes as the temporary medical exemption forms and advice were published on the government website yesterday (15 September).

This guidance said: ‘On a temporary basis, from today, people working or volunteering in care homes who have a medical reason why they are unable to have a Covid-19 vaccine will be able to self-certify that they meet the medical exemption criteria, using the forms attached to this letter.

‘Care home workers who are exempt will need to sign the form attached to this letter and give this to their employer as proof of their temporary exemption status. This temporary self-certification process has been introduced for a short period prior to the launch of the new NHS Covid Pass system which will go live imminently.’

It added: ‘Once the NHS Covid Pass system is launched, care home workers will need to apply for a formal medical exemption through that process. This temporary self-certification will expire 12 weeks after the NHS Covid Pass system is launched.’

Those who can be exempt from the rule include individuals:

  • receiving end of life care where vaccination is not in the individual’s interests
  • with learning disabilities or autistic individuals, or with a combination of impairments which result in the same distress, who find vaccination and testing distressing because of their condition and cannot be achieved through reasonable adjustments such as provision of an accessible environment
  • with medical contraindications to the vaccines such as severe allergy to all Covid-19 vaccines or their constituents
  • who have had adverse reactions to the first dose (for example, myocarditis).

However, the letter, which was addressed to local authority chiefs and care home providers, said the list was not exhaustive and time-limited exemptions would also be available for pregnant women and those with short term medical conditions.

Last month, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) instructed that managers and service providers would be expected to cover employee shortfalls caused by the mandatory vaccination policy.

Despite this, the DHSC on 4 August reiterated that care homes should ‘already have contingency plans’ in place to cover staff shortages which ‘may affect the safe running of the service’.

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