The U.K. government is seeking views on revoking its requirement for health and social care staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of their employment, it said Wednesday.
The government has come under fire for rolling out the mandate as the health service faces over 100,000 job vacancies and an unprecedented backlog of care that’s mounted during the pandemic.
Under the current rules, social care staff must already be fully vaccinated to continue their work, while health care staff needed to have had their first jab by February 3 to meet the fully vaccinated mandate as of April 1.
Currently, around 60,000 National Health Service staff may need to be redeployed or dismissed if this comes into effect, according to NHS Confederation.
The government said the U-turn is based on “the changes in clinical evidence,” with the threat from the Omicron coronavirus variant “intrinsically less severe” than that from Delta.
The vaccine mandate for health and social care staff was introduced when Delta was dominant, the Department of Health and Social Care statement says.
In light of this, and the fact that more people now had immunity to the virus, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said last week that the vaccine mandate was no longer “proportionate.”
But not everyone agrees, including former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who questioned whether the U-turn was because of the staffing crisis. Those wishing to comment have one week to do so.