As the government’s vaccine mandate for care home workers comes into effect, about 50,000 care home staff have not been fully vaccinated in England and will not be allowed to work from Thursday.
On Wednesday, care leaders asked Sajid Javid for a reprieve, urging the health secretary to allow unvaccinated carers to keep working until at least next April when NHS staff face mandatory vaccines. There is concern that staff shortages could prevent thousands of patients leaving hospital.
Three care workers share their views about how the mandate will affect them.
‘I love my job and would like to continue’
Sarah*, a long-term private care home worker from Bedford, is still refusing to get vaccinated.
“I’m going to get fired, I will be leaving my job. I’m not an anti-vaxxer, I believe Covid is real. But I want more information before I put a vaccine into my body. I know several people who said they had menstrual problems after having it, and I don’t want a medical procedure when we don’t know the long-term effects.”
This sentiment, she says, is shared by several of her co-workers. “There’s other colleagues who will be leaving too. The residents are going to suffer. I’m certainly not in this job for money, I love my job and would like to continue. But I will have to find a different career, I might be stacking shelves at Lidl.”
She would consider having the jab in future, she says, but feels the mandate is not the right approach and she also has concerns about contradictory messaging during the pandemic.
“I’ve followed every single rule this government has put in place, I still wear my mask all the time – while nobody else is wearing theirs because the government won’t make it mandatory again,” she says.
“Communication has been very inconsistent about transmission, risks, vaccine efficacy and so on. I have no trust in this government, who are now making thousands of people unemployed.
“This bullying tactic – ‘No jab, no job’ – is absolutely appalling. Matt Hancock got all the care homes into a mess by discharging residents from hospital without testing, amid a lack of PPE, and the list goes on. I’ve worked all the way through this pandemic, had not one day off and have been extremely careful throughout with regular lateral flow testing before shifts and a PCR twice a week. It is really not fair.”
‘We’ve had a significant drop in applications’
Claire, 47, from Norfolk, worked as a carer for 20 years, and is now a manager of a private care home.
She has reluctantly agreed to have the vaccine and is now double-jabbed, but is very unhappy about the situation.
“I object strongly to being vaccinated. Having the jabs was pretty straightforward and quick, but I don’t want to have any injections at all, and this was forced upon me. I’m worried about side-effects, long-term effects, and think it’s a shocking violation of human rights.
“Visitors are allowed in our home unvaccinated, but care team workers are being forced to have the jab. In the end everybody’s had the vaccines in my care home, and had to bring in evidence.”
Claire says she does not personally deal with patients face-to-face on a daily basis but works in the back office most of the time, and everyone wears full PPE when in contact with patients.
The staff, she says, did not really have a choice in whether to have the vaccines or not, as jobs are scarce in the area, which might be different in the big cities.
“The job situation is very hard here, you often can’t pick and choose where you work. Despite this, we do have staff shortages, and in the last six months our recruitment has been affected. We’ve had a significant drop in applications and currently have six jobs waiting to be filled, although they’ve put up the hourly pay.”
‘The mandate is necessary’
Damian, 41, originally from Poland, lives in London and visits six people in their own homes as a carer.
“I am fully vaccinated, and am in full support of compulsory vaccines, equally for NHS and social care workers,” he says.
Damian feels its his duty as a care worker to protect patients and their families as much as possible, including being fully vaccinated. Nevertheless his understands that others are more nervous. “My own partner is science sceptic, and I’ve seen a lot of genuine fear about the vaccines in my sector and elsewhere. I’m not judging anyone.
“If a carer is struggling to take the vaccine, they should be motivated to gain knowledge of what the vaccines are, and given time to rethink. If they’re then still hesitant, they should leave the profession.
“I know [the mandatory vaccines policy] can cause significant staff shortages, but it’s necessary.”
*Name has been changed