Downing Street has urged care home staff to get vaccinated after it emerged that around a third of social care staff have not received a coronavirus jab.
There is no official data published on how many health and social care staff have received a vaccine, including for staff in elderly care homes who look after one of the most vulnerable groups.
Matt Hancock said on Monday that the proportion is currently around two thirds of the social care workforce.
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.”
Asked if care home staff are being irresponsible for declining jabs, he said: “I think the important thing is for us to encourage them to come forward and take the vaccine.”
He said that “vaccines are not mandatory” when asked about reports that some care home employers have told staff they cannot come to work if they are not vaccinated.
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said the rollout of coronavirus jabs has been “remarkable”.
But he told Sky News: “We’ve got problems not only with care home staff, we’ve got problems with BAME groups, reaching out to socially deprived populations, homelessness.
“There are a number of people that we really need to reach out and persuade that these vaccines are safe and effective.”
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”.
A third of the 5,000 home carers employed by Cera have not yet received a vaccine, the social care provider said.
Chief executive Dr Ben Maruthappu said it is harder for domiciliary care staff to attend vaccination appointments as they spend their days travelling between people’s homes, compared with healthcare workers who can get a jab from their hospital or surgery.
He said: “Moving forward, we need to ensure that all social care staff are brought to the front of the queue for vaccines – particularly as we move into the next phases of the rollout.
“We need to make sure it’s logistically possible for the remaining third of carers to either attend appointments or receive the vaccine in a location convenient to them.”
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said getting as many care workers as possible to take the vaccine should be done through “encouragement and persuasion”.
She added: “Care workers must be given the correct information, as well as time to ask the experts about their concerns, think things through and talk to colleagues who’ve had the jab.”
Boris Johnson has urged people who should have had a coronavirus jab to come forward and make sure they receive a vaccine.
The Prime Minister said: “The numbers are very good for the over 80s, for the over 70s, and I think the 75-79 group you’re looking at 99% that have been done.
“But there are some people who are still to come forward and I really do urge people to come forward.
“These jabs, these vaccines are safe, they are efficacious, they will help protect you against disease and against death and they’re a wonderful thing to have – they help protect you, your family, your neighbours.”