Covid-19 vaccine could be a ‘requirement’ for some hospital staff – WHO experts

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World Health Organisation experts have suggested they would support the coronavirus vaccination becoming "a requirement" for hospital workers.

The WHO's immunisation director, Professor Kate O'Brien, told a WHO press conference there "may be some countries where there are professional circumstances where it would be required to be vaccinated", specifying "certain jobs in hospitals".

Her comments were reinforced by Dr Michael Ryan, director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme.

This comes after assurances by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that coronavirus vaccines would "absolutely" be rolled out on a voluntary basis to everyone in the UK, including health and social care workers.

Prof O'Brien said on Monday: "There may be some countries, or some situations in countries, where there are professional circumstances where it would be required to be vaccinated, or it would be highly recommended to be vaccinated.

"One can imagine certain professional jobs in hospitals, respiratory technicians, intensive care unit physicians and nurses, where for the safety of both the staff and the patients, there would be a very strong recommendation to be vaccinated.

"I don't think we envisage any countries creating a mandate for vaccination, but there certainly are situations where that strong recommendation, or perhaps on the part of an employer, would decide that that could be a requirement."

She added some countries have "had success" in ensuring children have had jabs by making it mandatory for them to be allowed to attend school.

Dr Ryan added: "There are specific circumstances where governments may have to require a specific mandate for vaccination.

"But I think all of us who work in public health would rather avoid that as a means of getting people back to business.

"I think we are much better served to present people with the data, present people with the benefits, and let people make up their own minds, obviously within reason because there are certain circumstances where I would believe it would be the only responsible thing to be vaccinated when the vaccine is fully available."

He added: "The reality is, most people want these vaccines. This is a massive potential victory for global health.

"People are demanding these vaccines, people want these vaccines... it is a victory of human endeavour, potentially over a microbial adversary... and there's hope with that.

"And yes, we have to continue to bring people along on that journey, but I don't think we should necessarily focus on the negative aspects here.

"We need to convince people, and we need to persuade, and we need to open dialogue on this issue."

Last week Mr Johnson told the House of Commons that making the vaccine compulsory is "not how we do things" in the UK.

He said: "I strongly urge people to take up the vaccine but it is no part of our culture or our ambition in this country to make vaccines mandatory."

A senior scientist from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises the Government, Professor Wei Shen Lim, also said there is "no suggestion" the vaccination should be compulsory for health workers, but that the JCVI is "not a policy-making body".

He said: "It is always an offer of vaccination and whether somebody wants to have a vaccine or not, whether they are in the NHS or not, at the moment it is a voluntary thing."

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