Care home staff vaccination rate below recommended level in over half of areas

The vaccination rate for staff at older adult care homes is below the level recommended by scientists advising the Government in more than half of England’s local authorities, figures show.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) says 80% of care home staff and 90% of residents need to be vaccinated to provide a minimum level of protection against Covid-19 outbreaks.

Figures published by NHS England on Thursday show that 86 out of 149 local authorities have not reached this threshold for employees.

In 22 areas less than 70% of staff have had a first jab.

Lambeth in south London had the lowest uptake at 50.1%.

The figures show the proportion of employees in older adult care homes who have been vaccinated has risen just 10 percentage points in two months.

When NHS England first published figures for care home staff on February 18, 69% had received a first jab as of February 14.

The latest figures show that 79.4% had had a first jab as of April 11 – a rise of just 10.4% points.

They suggest more than 96,000 eligible staff have not received a vaccine.

This may include some who cannot be vaccinated for valid medical reasons and staff who work at a home currently in outbreak and therefore cannot be visited.

There may also be a time lag in vaccinations being reported, NHS England said.

Elderly care home residents and their carers and all frontline health and social care staff were included in the first two priority groups when the vaccine rollout started in early December.

The figures came as the Government opened a public consultation on a proposal for staff to be required to get a jab as a condition of deployment to protect elderly residents.

Care groups questioned why their NHS health colleagues were not included in the proposal.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he would consider the results of the consultation, but that high rates in Wales show it “must be possible to have high levels of vaccination without making it mandatory”.

Adam Gordon, professor of the care of older people at the University of Nottingham, said high staff vaccination rates are “absolutely essential” to protect one of society’s most vulnerable cohorts.

He told the PA news agency: “There’s still a bit of uncertainty about how well care home residents will respond to vaccination – they are the very most frail members of the population.

“If anybody is likely to respond poorly to vaccination in terms of not developing full immunity, it will be care home residents, whereas obviously care home staff are younger and fitter and so they will be able to develop full immunity in response to vaccination.

“So having high staff vaccination rates is absolutely essential if we are to protect care home residents from Covid.”

Prof Gordon said he did not believe mandatory vaccination would be a good idea for “already exhausted, already beleaguered” staff, adding: “What we should be doing is focusing on removing logistical barriers and focusing on making sure that we have really good, accessible, straightforward education that people can understand.”

A total of 71.2% of social care staff in England working in independent Care Quality Commission-registered younger adult care homes and domiciliary care providers have received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, NHS England said.

For social care staff working in other settings in England, including non-registered providers, the figure is 69.5%.

This is up from 54.2% and 53.9% for each group respectively when NHS England first released this data on February 25.

The figures suggest there are 328,487 social care staff in these settings who have not been vaccinated or whose vaccination has not been reported.

The total may include some who cannot be vaccinated for valid medical reasons and staff whose vaccination status is unknown.

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