Health Secretary Matt Hancock today confirmed the Government may make Covid vaccines compulsory for care home staff.
Ministers are concerned about low uptake rates among carers — NHS figures show just a third of workers have had the jabs in parts of London.
Mr Hancock admitted mandatory vaccination was ‘something we are looking at’ and claimed ‘many’ care homes have supported the proposal.
He scolded carers who have turned down their jab appointments, warning that they ‘have a duty of care not to pass on the disease’ to frail residents.
His comments came after a leaked paper submitted to the Covid Operations Cabinet committee showed Mr Hancock and Boris Johnson both had agreed to compulsory jabs for care staff.
Quizzed about it this morning, Mr Hancock told LBC: ‘On this one, no decision has been taken, but it is something that we are looking at.
‘Because people who are looking after elderly residents in care homes, who we know to be the most vulnerable to Covid, they have a duty of care not to pass on the disease and it is a reasonable question.’
He said ‘many’ care homes had asked for this to happen, adding: ‘There’s a legal change that’s required and, as you can see, I’m open to that, but no final decision has been taken.’
NHS England figures show, nationally, just 76 per cent of care home workers had their first dose of a Covid vaccine by March 14 — the most recent day local data is available for.
Matt Hancock has confirmed No10 could make Covid jabs compulsory for care home staff after data showed just a third of workers in parts of London have been vaccinated
Matt Hancock this morning said that ‘no final decision’ has been taken amid a review into vaccination passports, but confirmed that ministers were looking at jabs being made compulsory for care workers in England
But the data — which break up the country into 150 areas — shows uptake of the life-saving vaccine among carers varies widely across the nation.
Lambeth in south London has the lowest proportion of care home staff vaccinated, with an uptake rate of just 42.6 per cent.
In comparison, seven areas have vaccinated more than 85 per cent, with Blackpool inoculating 1,466 of its 1,678 carers.
The proportion of people opting in to the vaccine rollout is even lower for carers working in people’s own homes, with less than a third accepting a jab in Barnet (28.5 per cent) and Bexley (32.4 per cent).
All staff in care homes should now have been offered a first dose of the vaccine, with England’s Covid vaccine roll-out officially widened to all over-50s last week — the last priority group set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
But a huge postcode lottery in the roll-out has emerged in recent weeks, with some healthy adults in their twenties managing to get vaccinated.
The mammoth inoculation drive must go smoothly for lockdown to be safely eased in the coming months.
TOP TEN AREAS IN THE COUNTRY FOR CARERS’ COVID VACCINE UPTAKE
BOTTOM TEN AREAS IN THE COUNTRY FOR CARERS’ COVID VACCINE UPTAKE
The figures — which offer the most up-to-date regional breakdown of the roll-out — show the percentage of carers who have opted in. It will not include a small minority who may have already been offered a jab but are still waiting for an appointment.
Statistics show a clear divide has emerged across the nation, with 13 areas having vaccinated fewer than 60 per cent of staff — 12 of which were in London.
Lambeth was followed by Wandsworth (55.1 per cent), Southwark (56.6 per cent), Luton (56.9 per cent), Redbridge (57.1 per cent) and Hackney (58.1 per cent).
Plans to make vaccinations compulsory have emerged amid concerns of low uptake of staff in care homes looking after those who are among the most vulnerable from contracting the disease.
But it would prove highly controversial, with the PM’s official spokesman previously accepting it would be ‘discriminatory’ to force people to be vaccinated.
Mr Hancock said that there was ‘still further to go’ in vaccine uptake in care staff, with around 76 per cent of workers in elderly care homes vaccinated, and more than 90 per cent of residents.
‘One of the problems is that not every elderly resident can be vaccinated, sometimes for medical reasons, and we want to give them as much protection as possible,’ he added.
‘Now, 76 per cent of staff having been vaccinated, that is good news, and that is good progress over the last few weeks, but there is still further to go.’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he sees ‘powerful arguments’ both for an against the compulsory vaccination of care home staff and that the most important thing currently is to encourage people to come forward for jabs.
The Telegraph reports that the sub-committee paper warned that a ‘large’ number of social care workers may quit if the change is made, while there could be successful lawsuits on human rights grounds.
In response to the reports, Kate Hindmarch, partner in employment law at Langleys Solicitors, said that ‘no jab, no job could be a dangerous approach for employers to take’.
‘There is not enough evidence to suggest taking the vaccine makes everyone’s working environment safe,’ she said.
‘If an employer tries to force their employees to receive the jab or decides not to hire someone based on their refusal to get the jab, it could result in employment claims, for unfair dismissal and/or discrimination.’
A Government spokesman said: ‘The review into Covid status certification is considering a range of issues.
‘No final decisions have been made.’