A third of social care workers yet to take Covid-19 vaccine, health secretary confirms

The health secretary confirmed that only two thirds of care staff have currently taken the vaccine, despite social care workers being part of the Government’s top four priory groups.

15/02/21

A third of social care workers yet to take Covid-19 vaccine, health secretary confirms

A third of social care staff in England have not had the Covid-19 vaccine, despite them being amongst the Government's top four priority groups, health secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed.

Whilst the Government has reached its target to offer a vaccine to the estimated 15 million people within the top four priority groups, Mr Hancock said that it was “very important” for those within the social care sector who had not taken the vaccine to do so.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Hancock said: "[Getting the vaccine] is the right thing to do. It is very important that you come forward and take up this vaccine. It's important for you, it's important for your patients and of course it's important for the whole of society."

Mr Hancock’s comments came following the publication of the Government's plan to boost uptake across a range of different communities and groups, including social care staff, by the Department of Health and Social Care on Saturday.

The plan includes proposals to publicly promote ways care staff are encouraged to take up the vaccine by team leaders, citing an example of a branch manager at a domiciliary care provider in North London who shared a video of herself getting a vaccine on her workplace social media and WhatsApp group to encourage other staff to get their jabs.

In addition, the Minister for Care Helen Whately confirmed on Twitter last week that the National Booking System – the online vaccine booking system – was now open for all social care staff, as the Government tried to encourage more frontline workers to take the vaccine.

The announcement from Mr Hancock follows a survey taken by the National Care Forum (NCF) last week, which outlined the state of vaccination uptake amongst social care staff ahead of the 15 February target, as well as some of the potential reasons that some staff have yet to take the vaccine.

Following a snapshot survey of care providers last week, the NCF found that only around a quarter both supported living (24%) and domiciliary care services (25%) had reported that more than 70% of their staff had been vaccinated.

Care homes for older residents reported the highest uptake, with over half (53%) of those providers surveyed confirming that over 70% of their staff had been vaccinated.

However, other than care homes for older residents, the survey found that around one in three of all services had less than 40% of staff vaccinated.

The report identified hesitancy and medical conditions as “absolutely key” reasons for the lack of take up amongst social care staff.

The survey also concluded staff being unavailable during vaccination team visits was an additional area of concern, as well as lack of access, as well as already having a future appointment booked.

But the report found that general hesitancy over the vaccine itself “appears to be a really dominant reason for lack of vaccination” and that more work was need to fully “understand the reasons behind this and what support should be offered specifically targeted at this workforce.”

Vic Rayner, Director of the National Care Forum, said that the survey raised concerns over the implementation of the vaccine programme for staff compared to care residents, and that more needed to be done to combat the spread of misinformation surrounding the vaccine.

“The prioritisation of staff vaccination across all types of social care does not appear to have been followed through with the same level of effectiveness as the campaign to vaccinate all older adults in care homes,” said Rayner.

“The voice from providers on the ground gives some indication of where local systems could be improved, such as making sure hospital hubs continue to offer appointments to social care workers, ensuring these appointments are available as a matter of priority and removing any local barriers to vaccine access.

“A positive first step has already been taken towards this by opening the National Booking Service to all social care staff, but more needs to be done to address vaccine hesitancy and a better understanding of the medical barriers to vaccine uptake.”

“When it comes to vaccination hesitancy, social care providers need to be supported with tailored resources to build confidence in the vaccine programme, address staff concerns and combat misinformation.”

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