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COVID-19 vax not mandatory in the UK – including for healthcare staff

People eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, including health and social care staff, will not be forced to get their vaccination, the UK governments have confirmed.

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This clarification follows the news yesterday morning (December 2) that the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been approved, with NHS staff set to start administering it as early as next week.

Speaking in parliament yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that while he “strongly urges people” to get the vaccine, “it is no part of our culture or our ambition in this country to make vaccines mandatory”.

NHS England and Improvement told C+D today (December 3) that Mr Johnson has urged everyone to receive their vaccine and that this includes healthcare staff. “Further details will be announced in due course,” a spokesperson said.

“Persuading everybody” to get vaccine

Mr Johnson’s views were echoed by Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who in a press conference yesterday said that she would encourage anyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine “as soon as they are offered, and they become eligible for it”.

“Vaccination has traditionally been something that is voluntary, not compulsory,” she added. However, the Scottish government “will put everything we’ve got behind persuading everybody to get this vaccine as soon as they become eligible”, Ms Sturgeon added.

She said that she expects the first vaccines to be administered by the NHS in Scotland from December 8.

“No one will be forced”

Dr Gill Richardson, chair of the COVID-19 vaccine programme in Wales, also welcomed the news of the approved COVID-19 vaccine at a press conference yesterday. She said that while “this vaccine is the best way to protect people… no-one will be forced to have it”.

“However, I would encourage you, when you’re called, to accept this offer, which will save lives and protect the NHS and eventually help us to resume to normal life”.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health in Northern Ireland told C+D yesterday that people will be able to decide whether to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as “all vaccination programmes in Northern Ireland are voluntary”.

C+D has approached the government in each UK nation to ask for the specific details of COVID-19 vaccine uptake targets among NHS staff.

JCVI priority recommendations

The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations advised the UK government yesterday that older adult resident in care homes “should be the highest priority for vaccination”, along with care home staff. It confirmed that this cohort should be followed by health and social care staff, including pharmacists, as it had anticipated in its interim advice issued on September 25.

A COVID-19 vaccination survey of locum pharmacists by locum agency Locate a Locum, published yesterday, found that 128 (50%) out of 255 locums would get a COVID-19 vaccine, while 21% are unsure.

In a statement published yesterday, the Department of Health and Social Care said that NHS England will release further details on how the vaccines will be deployed, but the plan will include the use of hospital hubs for “NHS and care staff and older patients to get vaccinated”.

Result

Will you be getting a COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes, as soon as it’s available
27%
Yes, but not immediately. I have concerns about how fast it’s been developed and would like more information first
17%
No, I’m not confident that a vaccine that has been developed so quickly will be safe
40%
No, I have reservations about vaccines in general
16%
Total votes: 186

Would you get vaccinated against COVID-19?

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