When Sajid Javid was interviewed at Tory party conference recently, he was asked if he’s going to start firing unvaccinated NHS staff, given that care workers are about to lose their jobs under ‘no jab, no job’ rules. He said he was considering it, which would be quite a move. The unjabbed may make up a small percentage of the NHS workforce of 1.6 million people. Today’s Sunday Times says that he has decided to press ahead by introducing legislation that will make vaccinations ‘a condition of employment’ for health workers. This would follow what Joe Biden has done in America — where all medical employees face vaccine mandates and companies with more than a hundred employees must enforce vaccinations or weekly testing.
At The Spectator data hub, we’ve been keeping an eye on this. The NHS is releasing monthly vaccinations records which include breakdowns for demographics such as ethnicity, social background and health vulnerability. For the first time they now include vaccination rates by NHS trust. The figures show there are about 106,000 unvaccinated staff of which 32,000 are in London (the capital has one of the lowest overall vaccination rates).
So in London, certainly, we’re not talking a sliver of unvaccinated back room NHS staff at risk. Up to one in six NHS workers in some trusts have declined to be vaccinated — quite a chunk of the workforce to lose. There are big regional variations. The portion of unvaccinated staff tends to tally with the portion of BME staff, given the close link between ethnicity and vaccine take-up.
Yes, many will be vaccinated as the deadline looms (as happened in America) but the experience of care home workers suggest that a good number refuse and will be fired on the 11 Nov deadline. There are fears of 9,000 care home job losses in Derbyshire alone.
So which NHS trusts would be worst-affected? The table below lists the top ten NHS vaccination not-spots. The least-vaccinated trust is Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust, at 16 per cent. Seven of the next nine are in London.
Three years ago, NHS workers who refused the flu vaccine were asked to explain their reasons to bosses and face redeployment to non-clinical areas. But none were in danger of losing their jobs.
It’s hard to think that tens of thousands of NHS workers are going to be fired. Especially as they may have decent reasons: many may have recovered from Covid for example, and may argue that they have natural immunity (a common theme amongst the American vaccine refuseniks). A study from a database of 2.5 million Israelis shows that recovery protection is 13 times stronger than from vaccination alone.
For his part, the Prime Minister now says of the vaccine: 'It doesn’t protect you against catching the disease and it doesn’t protect you against passing it on.'
This is untrue: according to extensive trials, vaccines certainly do reduce the chance of infection — by 80 per cent in the case of Pfizer and 65 per cent in the case of AstraZeneca. But it’s hard for him to, first of all, say vaccines don’t stop you from spreading the disease and then demand the resignations of workers who don’t get vaccinated.
We’re told the NHS is again facing a ‘winter crisis’ largely due to severe staff shortages. Will the Health Secretary really add to that crisis by sacking thousands of health workers? Even those who have had the virus and have antibodies — so can say they pose no greater threat than the vaccinated? We’ll see what the next few weeks bring.