Accessibility issues behind lower vaccine rates among care home staff – minister

Sam Blewett, PA Political Correspondent

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has suggested that accessibility issues and hesitancy over safety are behind lower uptake of coronavirus vaccines among social care workers.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said around a third of social care staff have not received a jab, despite them being on the priority list.

The disclosure prompted concerns over the safety of elderly and vulnerable residents, as well as suggestions that employers could require staff to have vaccines.

Mr Zahawi said the lower rates among care staff are “partly driven by accessibility” but that repeat visits are “beginning to pay off”, as is the national booking system.

“So I think part of it is giving them much greater access to get their appointments at a time that’s convenient to them and of course make sure we share the information about how safe vaccines are,” he told LBC radio.

But the minister declined to clarify whether employers can legally require staff to disclose whether they have received a coronavirus vaccine.

Instead, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The vaccination is not mandatory.

“Employers have been talking to us, they are concerned about their duty of care for the residents, the elderly residents, especially if the virus mutates. At the moment, the dominant virus in the UK, the vaccines work well against the dominant virus.”

Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi
Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

No official data has been published on how many health and social care staff have received a jab.

Downing Street has urged care home staff to come forward and get vaccinated.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are asking everybody to come forward and take the vaccine. We’ve been clear that it is safe and effective and not only provides protection but it also provides protection for those around them.

“So of course we’re asking everybody to come forward and take the vaccines, including care home workers.”

Care home groups have said some staff are ineligible due to underlying health conditions or a recent positive Covid test, while others are hesitant or concerned for a range of reasons.

Some have fallen prey to misinformation, including that the jab will affect fertility, which England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has called a “nasty, pernicious scare story”.

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