Unite the union has today (Tuesday 9 November) reinforced its long-held view that Covid vaccinations for NHS and social care staff should not be mandatory.

Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said that persuasion and not coercion was the best way to drive up vaccination rates, especially as NHS England said that rates amongst for NHS staff for the first jab were already at 93 per cent and at 89 per cent for the second dose.

Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid is expected to announce later that frontline NHS England staff will have to be fully vaccinated against Covid by next spring. It is estimated by NHS Providers that between 80,000 and 100,000 NHS workers in England were unvaccinated. Thursday is also the deadline for care home workers in England to get vaccinated.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “It has been Unite long-standing position that we don’t support mandatory vaccination for NHS staff or those working in social care – we believe that a campaign of persuasion of the benefits of the Covid vaccination is the best way to achieve maximum coverage.

“The NHS is already seeing a severe ‘recruitment and retention’ crisis with an estimated 90,000 vacancies and imposing a regime of mandatory vaccination will just exacerbate this crisis as we go into a very difficult winter for the health service with an exhausted staff still battling the continuing 21-month old pandemic.

“We also want to see more clarity regarding whom exactly is classed as ‘frontline’ staff.

“Aligned to this we want the government to reaffirm its commitment to keep everyone safe at work with preventive measures such as masks, social distance and proper ventilation.

“Infection in hospitals and community health settings have also been caused by poor procedures, lack of one way systems and insufficient supply of the PPE required.”

In its submission to government last month on mandatory vaccinations, Unite said it believes all Covid-19 vaccination and testing regimes in the UK should be voluntary.

Unite said: “Compulsion is a bad way to achieve a high level response, will lead to increased resistance, a worsening staffing crisis and is embroiled with issues such as equalities, human rights, privacy, and ethical breaches.

“The voluntary approach is working and Unite is strongly in favour of the UK vaccination program and has actively promoted the idea of Unite members taking up the offer of Covid-19 vaccinations.

“We also have reservations about reliance on the vaccine to prevent infection. Not enough is known about this or other aspects of the vaccines such as duration of protection, timing of boosters and how vaccines will fare against variants that are constantly evolving.”

The link to the submission can be accessed via https://www.politicshome.com/ugc-1/1/36/0/Unite%20submission%20to%20DHSC%20consultatio.pdf

Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers' living standards.

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For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

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Unite is the leading union in the UK and Ireland, dedicated to defending and improving members' jobs, pay and conditions. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.