Staff in care homes who don’t receive both vaccine jabs ahead of a looming deadline should “get out and get another job”, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has warned.
His warning comes ahead of the 11 November legal deadline for care home workers to have had both COVID-19 jabs, but some unions and care homes are warning that it could lead to a shortage of staff.
Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If you work in a care home you are working with some of the most vulnerable people in our country, and if you cannot be bothered to go and get vaccinated then get out and go and get another job.”
Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association, warned that the deadline needed to be extended for practical reasons rather than out of generosity to workers who are vaccine hesitant.
“We are not anti-vaccine,” she said, explaining that the sector “needed a bit more time to get people where they needed to be” or it faced a catastrophic shortage of staff which would force care homes to close.
Mr Javid said that he would not consider extending the deadline and stressed that it was imposed for the safety and benefit of care home residents.
“If you want to look after them, if you want to cook for them, if you want to feed them, if you want to put them to bed, then you should get vaccinated. If you are not going to get vaccinated then why are you working in care?” he asked.
NHS England data reports that more than 92% of staff working at care homes for the elderly have had at least a single vaccine dose, while more than 84% of workers have had two.
The National Care Association estimates that 40,000 people could be forced to quit their jobs because of the deadline, and that almost 80,000 “are still in the danger zone” as they have only received a single dose.
Ms Ahmed said: “This is not just an emerging crisis. With the scale of the existing vacancies, it’s a crisis that is already here. Care homes are already closing.
“It seems completely perverse that care home workers who are unvaccinated will be able to work on November 10 but not on November 11,” she added.
The health secretary said that other people will come forward to replace those who leave the care sector as a result of the deadline, but Ms Ahmed warned that “the fact of the matter” is that “there is no workforce out there to replace the thousands that are leaving”.
Mr Javid said: “If you think about elderly relatives you might have in care homes, and the idea that someone wants to look after them and they don’t want to take a perfectly safe and effective vaccine… because somehow they have got some objection to this vaccine, then really, honestly, they shouldn’t be in our care homes.”