A consultation into making COVID vaccinations mandatory for care home staff working with elderly residents has been launched.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) today announced the five-week consultation on making a jab a “condition of deployment”.
Staff, care providers, residents and their families, and other stakeholders are being asked to take part, with officials hoping to find out potential impacts on staffing and safety.
The DHSC is also looking to see how the scheme could be implemented and who could be exempt.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News: “Our consultation is very focused on the condition of deployment.
“I’m being very clear here – It’s not a condition of employment, it’s a condition of deployment.”
Some providers have already made a coronavirus vaccine a requirement.
Following the report, a decision is expected to be made this summer.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said that 80% of carers and 90% of residents need to be vaccinated for a minimum level of protection against outbreaks of the virus.
Nearly half of care homes for older people in England have not hit this target, according to the government.
The latest numbers show that 78.9% of care staff for elderly people have had a jab in England.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Older people living in care homes are most at risk of suffering serious consequences of COVID-19 and we have seen the grave effects the virus has had on this group.
“Making vaccines a condition of deployment is something many care homes have called for, to help them provide greater protection for staff and residents in older people’s care homes and save lives.
“The vaccine is already preventing deaths and is our route out of this pandemic. We have a duty of care to those most vulnerable to COVID-19, so it is right we consider all options to keep people safe.”
Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England which represents care providers in England, said: “The sector is divided on whether or not vaccination should be mandatory, but it is wholly united in its support for the vaccine and has done everything it can to persuade its residents and staff to have it.
“Should the vaccine be mandatory for adult social care staff working in care homes for older people it begs the question whether it should not be mandatory for the NHS, those working in other care home settings, supported living, hospices, etc as well.”
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said mandatory vaccination is “the wrong approach and a massive distraction”.
Ms McAnea added that the government should be encouraging uptake, combating misinformation and ensuring staff get time off to have a vaccine.