Care sector urge workforce vaccination stepped up as Government claim elderly resident milestone
Efforts to vaccinate care workers should be stepped up, industry leaders said as the Government claimed a “crucial milestone” had been reached with all older care home residents in England offered a jab.
NHS England said figures are expected to show on Monday that people living at more than 10,000 care homes with older residents had been offered their first vaccine doses, meeting the deadline set by Boris Johnson.
A “small remainder” were said to have had their visits deferred for safety reasons during a local outbreak but these will be visited “as soon as NHS staff are allowed to do so”.
But ministers were warned there was still a “big, big task” to vaccinate care home workers by the middle of this month, the target for offering all high priority groups a jab.
The Government’s vaccines delivery plan had originally stated it was the “ambition” to offer the vaccine to not just elderly care home residents but also the staff who look after them, by the end of January.
The Prime Minister said the achievement in offering a vaccine to care home residents was “a crucial milestone in our ongoing race to vaccinate the most vulnerable against this deadly disease”.
He said: “We said we would prioritise and protect care home residents, and that is exactly what we have done.”
But he added that there will be “difficult moments to come”, with the number of infections and individuals in hospital still “dangerously high”.
Vic Rayner (pictured), the executive director of the National Care Forum (NCF) which represents not-for-profit providers, said just 27% of its member organisations had 70% or more of their staff vaccinated as of early last week, adding that access to doses was the main issue.
She told Sky News: “The priority over the next two weeks is to get the vaccine out to 1.6 million people who work across care. So it is a big, big task and a big clock is ticking away around that.”
Nadra Ahmed, executive chairman of the National Care Association (NCA), representing small and medium-sized providers, said some staff were refusing a jab due to “cultural issues”.
She told the BBC: “Some of it is to do with access and that is that people are just not able to get to where they needed to go to.
“If they’ve been coming into the care homes, the GPs have not had enough vaccine for the staff as well, they’ve just got enough for the residents, which is the priority.
“And some of it is to do with cultural issues and some is that people just don’t want to have the vaccine.
“We have to convince people that this vaccine is for them. That it’s for the staff to protect them and therefore protect the services they work in.”
In mid-January the PA news agency revealed that up to a fifth of staff in some care home groups have refused a coronavirus vaccine when offered.
Care minister Helen Whately told the BBC the vaccine teams were continuing to work through the social care workforce by February 15.
“We know that there were some staff that were worried about the idea of having the vaccination,” she told BBC Breakfast.
“But what I am hearing is that when the vaccination teams go into the care homes staff are coming forward. Some might be nervous but when they see their colleagues getting the vaccination, when they see that it’s all right… we really are seeing good take-up from care home workers.”
Shadow social care minister Liz Kendall said: “It is essential that ministers now do everything possible to ensure care home staff take up their vaccines, move swiftly to vaccinate care homes for people with disabilities and crucially, home care staff who care for elderly and disabled people in their own homes.”
The developments came as:
- The Government ordered an extra 40 million doses of the Valneva Covid-19 vaccine which is being manufactured in Scotland.
- Captain Sir Tom Moore, the 100-year-old Second World War veteran whose charity walks inspired the nation early in the pandemic, was being treated in hospital after testing positive for Covid-19.
- The Institute for Fiscal Studies warned pupils who missed out on six months of normal schooling could lose around £40,000 in income over their lifetimes.
- A further 587 people died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus as of Sunday, bringing the official UK death toll to 106,158.
Ministers are growing increasingly confident of hitting the target of vaccinating the 15 million most vulnerable people by mid-February after a record high of jabs on Saturday.
Official figures showed 598,390 first doses were administered across the UK, bringing the total number of people to have received a dose to 8,977,329.
Based on the latest figures, an average of 401,512 first doses of vaccine would be needed every day for the February 15 target to be met.
Meanwhile, a subgroup of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said physical distancing and face masks ought to be used more “consistently and effectively”, including in outdoor settings, to mitigate transmission of variant strains of Covid-19.
The paper from Sage’s environmental modelling group, from January 13, said: “Consideration should be given to using face coverings in a wider range of settings where people could be asymptomatic and may be in close proximity (less than two metres”).
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