Should Covid jabs be made mandatory for care home workers?
- Credit: Tracey Blazey/ArmsCare/Archant
Plans to make Covid jabs mandatory for care staff have drawn praise in Norfolk - as well as criticism from those who believe workers should retain their freedom of choice.
The government will tell carers they must accept the offer of a vaccine, or risk losing their jobs.
Health secretary Matt Hancock is known to be in favour of the move and, while it is yet to be confirmed, an announcement is due in the coming days.
Considerations are ongoing over whether to extend the measure to NHS staff.
While care providers in Norfolk and Waveney have been encouraging employees to get protection, there has been emphasis on the right to choose.
There are also worries over the policy's impact on the sector's recruitment crisis.
Raj Sehgal, managing director of west Norfolk-based ArmsCare, said discussions had already taken place with abstaining workers - resulting in a senior member of staff opting to quit.
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"One staff member has decided to have the vaccine, one is currently on maternity leave and two are pregnant and will take medical advice," added Mr Sehgal.
"Disappointingly, one long-standing skilled senior care worker has decided to leave the sector at a time when we are looking to recruit more people."
Norfolk and Waveney has enjoyed a impressive vaccine rollout, topping the pile in England when it comes to first-dose vaccination rate.
And fresh figures published by NHS England show there has also been a strong response from eligible Norfolk care staff, with 88.4pc accepting a jab so far.
In Suffolk, the proportion to accept is a fraction higher at 88.5pc.
Amid rising concern from some quarters, providers and representatives from the care sector were due to meet health officials on Wednesday to discuss the issue.
But among those in favour of the proposal is Tracey Blazey, whose mum, Lilian Bradford, lives at Mayflower Court in Bowthorpe.
While sympathetic of those reluctant to get a jab, Ms Blazey, believes guarding against a public health crisis must be prioritised.
"I'm an ex-nurse and had to have all sorts of injections because of my job, so part of me thinks this is similar," added the 63-year-old, who lives in Old Catton.
"On the other side of the debate is being free to do what you want. It is a really difficult balance.
"If I was purely thinking about mum and people in the care home, I would say staff should have to be vaccinated unless there is a good health reason. My mum does not have any choice in who comes in to care for her and that is not going to change.
"At the end of the day, their job encompasses protecting people from harm.
"I would probably come down on the side of saying 'there are just some things you have to do in spite of your reservations.'"
While many are supportive of the government's intention, some EDP readers have questioned whether it should be allowed.
Writing on Facebook, Mandi Martin said getting a jab "should be choice - (you) shouldn't be made to have the vaccine."
And Margo Paterson added: "I’m a big advocate of vaccination. I’ve had both of mine, but I feel just as strongly about choice."
Having adopted a "policy of education" among its staff, Black Swan Care Group - which has nine homes in Norfolk - has seen more than 90pc accept vaccines.
Managing director Tom Lyons said he hoped to see other measures to soften the blow of the new rules.
"There will be an impact on recruitment in what is already a stretched sector and that must not be dismissed," he said.
"I do feel that any approach must not isolate social care staff from our colleagues in the NHS, and we must look at ways to provide safe care.
"Providing care all day whilst wearing masks is hard for staff, especially during the summer. If all staff and residents were fully vaccinated, I would like to see some relaxation so that care can be delivered more personally."
And Mr Sehgal added: "Inevitably, the devil will be in the detail.
"The government will have given consideration to the enforceability of this policy and protection of employers, as well as the impact on a sector which is already deprived of a skilled workforce."