The Government had planned that from April 1st 2022, all healthcare workers who are working directly with patients must have received their COVID-19 vaccination. If they refused to receive it, they would be redeployed elsewhere within the healthcare service. However, it seems that the health minister is planning to cancel this mandate because of the risk of collapse of the NHS as the mandate could lead to a shortage of around 80,000 healthcare workers.
Ethical issues surrounding vaccine mandates
Although it is necessary for healthcare workers to have certain vaccines for diseases they could be exposed to at work, there has been much conversation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine. One can argue that becoming vaccinated against COVID-19 is in the best interest of the public, particularly when working in healthcare as you are in contact with vulnerable patients. However, should individuals always have autonomy over decisions regarding their health, including whether or not they wish to be vaccinated?
Impact on the healthcare service
It is estimated that around 5.4% of healthcare workers are unvaccinated. Therefore, if this vaccination is mandated, we would see a significant shortage of healthcare workers. What would be the impacts of this staff shortage in the current NHS situation? Do you think staff shortages could compromise patient safety more than having some unvaccinated healthcare workers, or are these not comparable?
Uncertainty about vaccine
Due to the short production time for the COVID-19 vaccine, there is uncertainty surrounding the long-term impacts that the vaccine. The impact of healthcare workers refusing the vaccine could instil a sense of insecurity regarding the vaccine for members of the public that are still unvaccinated. It also damages the image of the NHS in the eyes of the public. Is this a responsibility healthcare professionals signed up for?
Author: Fateha Khawaja
Editor: Dr Latifa Haque