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Why are some social care staff refusing to get vaccination?

At a time when we learn from the media that people over the age of eighty cannot wait for the time when they are given the opportunity to have their vaccine for Covide-19. It has emerged that more than a fifth of care home staff are refusing to be vaccinated. With many younger workers believing they are “invincible” to the disease. This is despite leaders of social care services demanding that care homes and other social care services should be first in the queue to receive the vaccine.

Current position with refusals

The Press Association found that up to 21 per cent of staff at one large care home group, and five per cent of residents at another, had declined to be vaccinated.

The figure for staff refusals at Sunrise Senior Living and Gracewell Healthcare's 46 care homes is around eight per cent of those offered, and just one per cent for residents, with more than half of residents now vaccinated.

Mike Padgham, who runs four care homes in North Yorkshire, said all but a handful of his 160 staff have received a vaccine. Some 14 staff members had refused it, with three since changing their minds, he told PA.

As of January 14, 47 per cent of residents and 37 per cent of staff in the 200+ homes run by Barchester Healthcare had been given at least one dose of one of the approved vaccines. It is understood that five per cent of staff offered a jab have refused it.

“We are playing our part in the national fight against Covid-19 and we feel that we must do whatever we can to protect our residents and patients, as reflected in the Barchester purpose and values.”

Covid-19 taskforce

Anna Selby, head of the group's Covid-19 taskforce, said 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, because they can't refuse something they haven't been offered, although they can say they are going to, which is worrying... but I don't know if what people say now is actually a true reflection of what they'll actually do when the time comes for them to get 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.”

NCA

Nadra Ahmed, from the National Care Association (NCA), said there has been a reduction in refusals following a strong push from providers to address fears and anxieties. She said information from members and other industry bodies suggests around six to eight per cent of care staff still remain nervous or resistant due to health and cultural reasons, down from 18 to 20 per cent at the start of the rollout.

Many are now being persuaded as they see colleagues get the jab she added.

Legal position

Care providers have a duty of care to protect residents from the virus. Staff by refusing the vaccine can be said to be putting the lives of residents and other staff at risk. Some providers are now amending their contracts of employment to make vaccinations a mandatory requirement for new employees.

The legal position for new employees however is far less clear. The NCA is seeking legal advice on whether care workers could be forced to take the jab.

Reassuring Staff

I am sure managers will be reassuring staff. The way forward is to listen to their concerns, explain the importance of the vaccine to themselves and others. Provide them with evidence of the number of people who took part in trials with no side effects.

Summary

It is difficult to understand why some social care staff are reluctant to receive the vaccine. The professional bond between the carer and the resident is strong, and surely the last thing the carer would want to do is to put residents at risk. Residents will also become aware of staff who have refused the vaccine putting this precious relationship in jeopardy.

It is important that the manager listens to the concerns of staff and reassure and remind them that they have a duty of care. The NHS as a matter of urgency needs to provide official data on how many residents and staff have refused the vaccine so providers can get on top of the issue.

Albert Cook Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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