Dozens of care home staff in Cambridgeshire appear to have missed the deadline for getting a mandatory Covid vaccination.
From November 11, all care home workers – and anyone entering a care home – will need to be fully vaccinated, unless exempt.
In order for those covered by the regulations to be vaccinated in time, they must have had their first jab by September 16.
In Cambridgeshire, 94.8% of staff working in older adult care homes, or 4,352 people, had received their first vaccination by the week ending September 19.
However, that leaves 238 people working in those homes who hadn’t had their first jab by the deadline.
Among those working in younger adult care homes, 91% of staff had received their first vaccination by September 19.
That left 77 people not vaccinated in time.
As the deadline for getting the jab arrived, UNISON warned of catastrophic staff shortages unless the mandatory jab policy was dropped.
It said there were more than 112,000 vacancies in care and the government itself had predicted the loss of 40,000 to 70,000 workers because of its “no jab, no job” care homes policy.
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Everyone that can have the vaccine, should have the vaccine. But the government has persisted with a heavy-handed approach despite warnings from care employers of the dire consequences.
“This move is damaging a sector already on its knees and undermining trust in the vaccine. If roles can’t be filled, the level and volume of care offered will be reduced. Vaccine-hesitant staff must be offered reassurance and persuasion, not threats and ultimatums.
“Instead of encouraging much-needed recruitment into care, the government is actively driving experienced staff away. It’s not too late for ministers to admit the error of their ways and bring care back from the precipice.”
The table below shows the full figures.
Nationally, 92.7% of older adult care home workers had been given their first jab by September 19, along with 88.4% of those in younger adult care homes, according to NHS Digital figures.
However, that suggests at least 33,780 older adult care home workers and 8,849 young adult care home workers missed the deadline (although some in this group may be exempt).
The estimates for numbers that could potentially leave the sector due to the vaccination rules could be higher due to how many people could be affected by the regulations.
The regulations apply to anyone entering a care home – although residents themselves are exempt.
Registered persons (such as managers or owners) will need to ensure that they do not allow anyone entry into a care home unless they are fully vaccinated or exempt.
People visiting friends or relatives, those visiting someone who is dying, and children are exempt from the rules, as are anyone there to carry out urgent maintenance or because of an emergency (this would include members of the emergency services).
Those carrying out scheduled maintenance work, people who come in to provide services such as hairdressing, those coming for job interviews, and even delivery drivers making drop offs will need to show proof of vaccination if they are coming into the home.
Those affected are exempt if they can show they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.
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Unvaccinated staff who aren’t exempt could be redeployed to other roles, or could lose their jobs.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) will monitor the procedures put in place to check people are vaccinated and take action where checks aren’t being carried out.
In its guidance on the regulations, the Government said despite protection from testing and PPE, and the best efforts of committed staff, there have been outbreaks across the country, and nearly 14,000 care home residents have died of Covid-19 since the beginning of this year.
Vaccinated people are better protected from severe illness and death, and analysis by Public Health England has shown vaccinated people who catch the virus are less likely to pass it on.
The Government said: “There is one thing now which is making a crucial difference, and which is saving the lives of care home residents and staff: vaccination.
“Although we have seen strong take-up of vaccination amongst care home residents, there are some who cannot be vaccinated and some for whom vaccination is less effective.
Some residents will therefore continue to be at greater risk of the consequences of Covid-19. This winter, a potential combination of Covid-19 and flu would be life-threatening for care home residents, who may be at high risk due to their age, underlying health conditions, or a disability.
“Vaccination against Covid-19 is the best way that workers can keep themselves and those they care for safe from the effects of the virus. Sustaining high levels of staff vaccination now, and in the future, as people enter the workforce, is important to minimise the risk of outbreaks in care homes, which continue to be high-risk settings.”
The Government is currently consulting on whether to extend the requirement to be vaccinated to other health and social care staff, and whether to also make having a flu jab a requirement.