The booster rollout continues at pace but not all Westminster are happy with efforts to increase vaccine take-up. Tory backbencher Danny Kruger popped up in the Commons today to ask the Leader of the House for time to debate compulsory vaccination for NHS workers. All healthcare staff must be jabbed by 1 April or risk facing the sack – one of the so-called 'Plan B' measures which Kruger reluctantly endorsed last month after wrestling with his conscience.
Kruger began his question by referencing research published by the British Medical Journal shortly after the Commons voted for the package of Covid measures. It found that the effectiveness of a third vaccine wore off after three months in preventing the transmission of Omicron. Therefore, he asked his fellow Old Etonian Jacob Rees-Mogg, would NHS staff be forced to have additional jabs every three months to keep their jobs? Such a move, said Kruger, would be 'unthinkable.' He therefore urged Rees-Mogg to consider dropping the 1 April deadline, 'thereby saving the NHS tens of thousands of staff and restoring the principle that in this country at least vaccination is the free choice of a free people.'
Unfortunately for Kruger, Rees-Mogg was in no mood to give quarter on the issue – though he did provide light relief to the House in revealing his preferred choice of publication. The MP for North East Somerset told Lindsay Hoyle that over Christmas 'Mr Speaker my reading material wasn't the NME nor the BMJ – if somebody asks me about The Spectator I may be able to give a more positive answer.' He went on to note that previous examples of compulsory vaccination for smallpox existed in the nineteenth century, concluding that given the need to 'break chains of transmission': 'I am sorry to disappoint my honourable friend but Her Majesty's Government does not agree that the regulations on health and care workers should be revoked.'
Still, maybe if one of the Speccie's contributors write about it, perhaps Rees-Mogg will be more amenable to changing his mind.