Sajid Javid is set to roll out plans to make a Covid-19 vaccination a requirement for all members of NHS staff.
It is believed by ministers that mandatory jabs for all NHS workers would help restrict the spread of the virus within hospitals and could ‘save lives’.
However, with the plans predicted to be rolled out as early as this week, The Telegraph reports that the move could spark a mass exodus of staff.
The publication reports that as many as one in four NHS workers in certain hospitals had not received a dose of the vaccine by April, and a Facebook group, called ‘NHS workers for choice, no restrictions for declining a vaccine’ has amassed as many as 2,600 members.
A Department of Health spokesman told the publication: ‘NHS staff have a duty of care to those most vulnerable to Covid-19 and we are encouraging all frontline staff to come forward for the jab.
Sajid Javid is set to roll out plans to make a Covid-19 vaccination a requirement for all members of NHS staff
‘Ensuring the NHS is well-staffed is a top priority for this Government and we will continue to work with employers to ensure they have the right number of staff to meet increasing demand.’
A similar requirement has already been enforced on care home workers, resulting in a staffing shortages, with all staff expected to have their first jab by September 16.
However, experts are predicting that as much as seven per cent of the care homes workforce could be depleted by the zero-tolerance policy.
The news comes as reports suggest official letters will soon be sent out to parents of children aged between 12 and 15 asking for permission to administer Covid-19 vaccines.
A Whitehall insider told The Sun that parents will be contacted via the letters within the next few days requesting permission.
It comes after an expert said that vaccinating children against Covid will stop classroom disruption when they return to school.
It is believed by ministers that mandatory jabs for all NHS workers would help restrict the spread of the virus within hospitals and could ‘save lives’ (stock image)
Ministers are pushing for schoolchildren aged 12- to 15-years-old to be given a jab, despite the Joint Commission for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) yesterday advising against the move.
The JCVI — the independent body that advises the Government on the roll-out — claimed the virus posed such a low risk to people in the age group that the benefit of vaccination to their health would be marginal.
It did however recommend the jabs for 200,000 more children with chronic heart, kidney, lung and neurological conditions in that age group. A total of 350,000 children aged 12 to 15 are now eligible for the vaccine.
But experts pushing back against the plans today argued that it would be ‘ethically dubious’ to jab children solely to protect adults, because Covid itself poses such a tiny risk to youngsters.
Others believe it is better for children to catch Covid and recover to develop natural immunity than to be reliant on protection from vaccines, which studies suggest wanes in months.
SAGE adviser Professor John Edmunds, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, today said ministers must take into consideration the wide implications of not vaccinating children.
And Jillian Evans, head of health intelligence at NHS Grampian in Scotland, said vaccinating the age group would help prevent transmission of the virus, as well as protect children from long Covid.
Former chief scientific adviser Professor Sir Mark Walport said it is for the Government to look at the broader harms of not vaccinating children.
Professor Edmunds told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘It’s a very difficult one, They’re going to take a wider perspective than the JCVI took, I think that’s right.
‘I think we have to take into consideration the wider effect Covid might have on children and their education and developmental achievements.
Official letters will soon be sent out to parents of children aged between 12 and 15 asking for permission to administer Covid-19 vaccines (stock image)
‘In the UK now it’s difficult to say how many children haven’t been infected but it’s probably about half of them, that’s about six million children, so that’s a long way to go if we allow infection just to run through the population.
‘That’s a lot of children who will be infected and that will be a lot of disruption to schools in the coming months.’
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘If the guidance is this will reduce the disruption for all those young people, yes, we will absolutely back that.
‘The government is right on this – we have to look at the broader picture… In England.
‘Specifically, where we have got so few measures now, this is going to be one of the most reassuring ways of telling those 12 to 15 year olds that is going to minimise the disruption for you.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, the JCVI’s chairman of Covid-19 immunisation, said the group’s view was that the benefits of vaccinating the age group ‘are marginally greater than the potential harms’ but that the benefits were ‘too small’ to support a universal rollout at this stage.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt recently urged ministers to ‘get on’ with a mass booster Covid vaccine programme and not wait on their advisors to sign off on the plans.
Jeremy Hunt recently urged ministers to ‘get on’ with a mass booster Covid vaccine programme
The former health secretary said the situation in Covid-ravaged Israel should serve as a warning sign that even highly-immunised countries are vulnerable to another wave.
Britain’s Covid vaccine advisory panel has hinted that it will give the go-ahead to boosters for ‘millions’ but is yet to formally make the recommendation or decide who will be eligible.
On Thursday, Boris Johnson appeared to jump the gun and get hopes up as he told elderly Britons and patients with underlying conditions to prepare for their third doses this autumn.
It may be weeks before the final details of the booster programme are set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
At the moment only 500,000 people with very weak immune systems are being invited to come forward for a third Covid vaccine.
But Mr Hunt urged the Government to press ahead with a wider programme and not wait a moment longer, adding: ‘In a pandemic I think even a few days can make a big difference.’
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘If you look at what’s happened in Israel, they have a higher vaccination rate even than us – 80 per cent of adults – and they have found a Delta variant does lead to increased hospital admissions, but two weeks after they introduced boosters those admissions started to go down again.
‘I understand why scientists are taking their time but I think in a pandemic politicians can also read the rooms and see the direction of travel.
Israel is recording the highest infection rate in the world and deaths and hospitalisations have risen sharply in the past month – despite 80 per cent of adults being vaccinated with two doses.
The country has been offering booster jabs to people over the age of 60 since July, and the scheme has helped to curb rising hospital admissions.