Legislation will come into force in the autumn for residential care staff working with anyone aged 65 or over. The plans are being introduced despite a five-week consultation in which 57% of the 13,500 respondents were against compulsory jabs.
The majority of PJ Care staff have already received their vaccinations but Chairman, Neil Russell, says forcing the remainder will be counter-productive.
“FIrst of all, I must stress that the safety of our residents is paramount. We encourage all of our team to be vaccinated as it is a key element in keeping our residents safe.
“We provide staff with the very latest information and are always willing to answer their questions and concerns. However, doubts will always remain for some.
“These may be health related, there may be cultural concerns or not sufficient reassurances yet for expectant mothers or those who want to start a family. For them, there will be no option other than to leave the profession”
Neil’s concerns about the impact of the plan are echoed by a number of other bodies including Age UK, the Independent Care Group and the National Care Association. Research carried out by the GMB union suggests more than a third of carers would quit their jobs if vaccines were mandated.
“If the government truly wants to protect the vulnerable, any mandatory vaccination programme needs to start in the NHS as that’s where the most vulnerable are,” Neil added.
While being vaccinated lowers the risk of transmission, it doesn’t remove it entirely. Neil says the best protection for residents comes from PJ Care’s ongoing commitment to PPE and strict infection control measures.
Efforts will continue to reassure all staff and achieve the highest vaccination rate possible among the staff team. Neil says he is reulctant to lose any of his highly skilled, compassionate team.
“It’s disappointing because this move feels like a lack of respect for care staff who have given so much during the pandemic. It assumes they can easily be replaced by people who have a greater sense of duty or responsibility to the elderly and the vulnerable. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I would hate to have to terminate the employment of any of my staff because they didn’t feel able, for whatever reason, to accept a COVID vaccination.”