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Vaccine deadline could decimate care sector

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McAnea 'The Government has persisted with a heavy-handed approach despite warnings from care employers of the dire consequences,’ said UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea

Unions have warned that the mandatory vaccine deadline for care workers could prove catastrophic for the sector.

Care workers had to have their first vaccination by 16 September to meet the Government’s deadline of 11 November to be double-jabbed or be banned from entering care homes in England.

Read more: Four in five people aged 16 and over vaccinated with both doses

‘Everyone that can have the vaccine, should have the vaccine. But the Government has persisted with a heavy-handed approach despite warnings from care employers of the dire consequences,’ said UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea.

‘This move is damaging a sector already on its knees and undermining trust in the vaccine. If roles can’t be filled, the level and volume of care offered will be reduced. Vaccine-hesitant staff must be offered reassurance and persuasion, not threats and ultimatums.’

The care sector is already in the grip of a severe staffing crisis and UNISON is receiving reports that multiple care agencies can no longer provide emergency cover. The union says the mandatory jab policy is partly to blame for these firms turning down requests from care homes to supply temporary care workers.

There are more than 112,000 vacancies in care and the Government itself predicts the loss of 40,000 to 70,000 workers because of its ‘no jab, no job’ care homes policy.

Read more: Initiative boosts ethnic minority vaccinations

There has been some talk of extending the policy to NHS workers, but nurses' leaders have been unenthusiastic. 'We do have concerns around mandating vaccines and whether this will ultimately improve uptake,’ said Helen Donovan, Royal College of Nursing Professional Lead for Public Health.

‘The majority of all nursing staff accept vaccination, the Department of Health and Social Care’s own figures show 92% of NHS staff have had their first dose and 88% both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The focus should be on communicating the benefits of vaccination rather than making them mandatory.’

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