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Social care staff need to consider the wider interests of their community

Most of us this week will think how amazing it is that that the Government have achieved its target of vaccinating 15m people by the 15th February 2021. Our thanks go out to the NHS and volunteers for their organisation and work they have put in to make this such a success.

The over eighties, seventies the most vulnerable and residents in care homes have taken up the offer of a vaccination, but there are many care home staff who have not as yet been vaccinated.

National Care forum survey

A survey conducted by the National Care Forum revealed that “large gaps” remained in the majority of services between the number of staff vaccinated and today’s government target of 100%. The survey, covering the period 1-31 January, found that 41% of care home staff still had to be vaccinated, with the shortfall even larger in extra care housing and supported living services (48%), home care services (55%) and community based services (60%).

In a quick snapshot follow-up survey to check the position as of February 8, data revealed that the biggest gaps appear to be in home care services, where 38% of those responding still had less than 40% of their staff vaccinated.

Take up of vaccination too low

Professor Anthony Harden the deputy chairman of the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation warned that the take up rate among care home staff is far too low. Despite overwhelming evidence about the safety of the vaccine’s only 66% of care home staff have received the vaccine.

He said “If care home staff are to stop potentially transmitting the virus to those vulnerable people who they care for and look after deeply, they need to take up the immunisation”.

Threats to social care staff

Some providers are demanding that care staff have the vaccine or risk losing their jobs. Barchester have said it will not hire workers who refuse the vaccine. Some staff have reported that they have been threatened with the sack or a pay cut if they refuse the vaccination.

Unison General Secretary Christina McAnea accused providers of using punitive tactics to ensure their staff are vaccinated. She said, “The more care staff that get vaccinated the safer the sector will be”. The more employers put punitive measures in place for staff or make it a condition of work they are undermining trust in the vaccine. “They are also at odds with other employer’s and the NHS”

Vaccination should not be mandatory

The Government’s position is that no jab no job policies are discriminatory. Professor Harden prefers persuasion by the power of argument rather than forcing staff to have the vaccine for fear of losing their job.

Considerations for social care staff

In the end, the success of the vaccine is the key to the reduction of restrictions and the way back to some form of normal life. In addition to considering the impact of transmission in care homes where they work, and their duty of care to protect and safeguard residents, staff need to consider their position in relation to transmission of the disease in the wider community.

The ultimate goal is to achieve some level of hard immunity that is resistance to the spread of an infectious disease. Within a population that is based on pre-existing immunity of a high proportion of individuals as a result of previous infection or vaccination. If this is to be achieve, we need maximum take up of vaccination.

Summary

Staff should not be threatened with the loss of their jobs if they do not take up the offer of a vaccine. Some staff I am sure, will be nervous about the prospect, and others may have religious reasons. Providers may have to rely on the power of persuasion through consultation and education. On their part, care staff should be open to the evidence that millions of people have now received the vaccine with little known side effects.

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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