A third of social care staff have not yet had a Covid-19 vaccine, despite government claims that everyone in the top four priority groups has been offered the first jab.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said it was “important” that social care staff – including those in residential care homes and staff who provide care in service users’ own homes – get the vaccine.
In an interview with BBC Breakfast, he urged care staff to request a vaccination through their employer or approach the NHS directly.
“It is the right thing to do,” said Hancock. “It is very important that you come forward and take up this vaccine. It’s important for you, it’s important for your patients, and of course, it’s important for the whole of society.”
So far, 15 million people have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The rollout in England has now been expanded to those aged 65 and over and younger people with underlying health conditions.
The government expects that all adults would have been offered a coronavirus vaccination by the autumn.
On Saturday the Department for Health and Social Care published a plan to help boost vaccine uptake in all communities after it emerged that some groups – including black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities – felt more hesitant or faced more physical or mental health barriers to getting one.
The government expects to translate vaccine resources into at least 13 languages; make it clear that an NHS number is not needed to get a jab, and promote the fact that more than 98% of the population lives within 10 miles of a vaccination site.
It said that a branch manager at MiHomecare, a domiciliary care provider in North London, shared a video of herself getting a vaccine on her workplace social media and WhatsApp group to encourage staff to get their jabs.
NHS trauma surgeon and volunteer vaccinator Dr. Martin Griffiths said: “Thanks to the fantastic efforts of hard-working NHS staff and volunteers, the largest vaccination program in the health service’s history has now jabbed four in five people aged 70 and over – but it’s not too late to come forward.
“Black, Asian, and minority ethnic people are disproportionately affected by Covid so it’s really important they get the vaccine. I’ve had it myself but understand that each person has their own specific reasons why they are hesitant and I want to ensure every person I see understands the vaccine is safe and effective as this will help us all get back to as normal a life as possible.”
The government has made it clear that getting a Covid-19 vaccination will not be a legal requirement, although organizations including Pimlico Plumbers have said they will consider introducing vaccination clauses in staff contracts.
Esther Smith, a solicitor at commercial law firm TLT, said: “In certain sectors, such as care homes, it may be viewed as reasonable for an employer to request that all staff be vaccinated.
“Employers can choose to introduce a contractual requirement requiring employees to have the vaccine, but this would amount to a change in terms and conditions. If the employee does not agree, the employer would be faced with unilateral imposition of change or terminating the contract and offering re-engagement on new terms, both of which come with risks.”
Smith said employers have an implied duty to take reasonable steps to ensure safe workplaces, systems of work, and the health and safety of their employees.
“It is therefore advisable for employers to consider how to best achieve voluntary vaccination within their workforces, which could include informing staff about the advantages and disadvantages of the vaccination,” she said.
Earlier this month the government expanded access to workplace Covid-19 rapid tests to detect the virus in people not showing symptoms.