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The prickly issue of the vaccine mandate

Short-term boost

I am, as you might expect for the editor of a health magazine, in favour of the Covid vaccine. I have no issue with Novak Djokovic being prevented from entering Australia for the Australian Open. I think that the vocal anti-vax movement is pretty abhorrent.

However, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable about the mandate for all patient-facing staff in the NHS to be vaccinated by April. The news this week that staff who are unvaccinated could be dismissed brought home the implications. In many cases, GPs will be the people having to sack long-standing employees.

I understand why there is a desire for all patient-facing staff to be vaccinated. But this is a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

First, there is the human element. Many of these healthcare workers were putting themselves in harm’s way at the start of the pandemic, when everyone was unvaccinated. It seems that their sacrifices at the time have been dismissed. But, even if they weren’t making sacrifices at the time, there is a human rights issue. This is not a case of a multi-millionaire being prevented from defending his tennis titles – this is about families putting food on the table.

Second, we were willing to take the risk of unvaccinated HCWs seeing patients at the start of the pandemic because they were needed then and we had no choice. But they are still needed – there are workforce problems across the NHS.

So what should be done? I think, first of all, a distinction needs to be made between the vocal anti-vaxxers who aim to dissuade others from having the vaccine and those who are vaccine hesitant for themselves. I would argue that being vocally anti-vaccine (or just anti-Covid vaccine) is incompatible with working in medicine. The harm that can be done by those who can make public pronouncements with the veneer of authority their jobs give them is immense. I have no problem with them facing whichever regulatory board is responsible for them, where they can argue their case for no-one having the vaccine.

For the vaccine hesitant, however, I think there needs to be a different tack. There are often deep-rooted reasons for hesitancy that require understanding, rather than hostility. It is rarely because they see Facebook memes – there is almost always an underlying reason for why they are looking for problems with the vaccine.

The Government must therefore remove the power for the CQC to withdraw registration for healthcare organisations who continue to employ unvaccinated staff. This is absolutely the wrong way to enforce this. Taking away the threat of imminent closure would allow providers and staff a bit of breathing space to come to a better solution.

What is solution is, is a different matter altogether. We could bring in other measures short of dismissal – ie, taking vaccination status into account for new jobs. But I also feel that it might not be one we will need to consider come April, when this wave has hopefully died down. Covid is changing constantly. It may well be we treat Covid as endemic come April, and it will look pretty odd treating the Covid vaccine any different to the flu vaccine.

In the meantime, however, I sincerely hope the Government steers away from its current course. Because individuals and the health service will both suffer.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at


David jenkins 20 January, 2022 12:07 pm

sensible, balanced article – as always !

wee done jamie !

Patrufini Duffy 20 January, 2022 3:01 pm

The mandate is a mere extension of their disrespect of you, one’s own life and you as a human being. Do they mandate influenza and pneumococcal? Categorically no. And let’s not compare this to Hepatitis B – that is just plain silly. Do you take varicella vaccines, when you have no antibodies – no you don’t. They weren’t there for you at the start – throwing you into the fire with carrier bags and zero public health measures. They then came to hound and blame you, for not working hard enough. They stripped you of your being – and placed you in a junk box of standard operating procedures and threats. Told you to build your “self-resilience”. The normal manipulative tactic. I sincerely do hope carers leave, as many as possible – to Lidls and Amazon and local garden centres. I hope they get better pay, more sunshine, an employer that might listen and offer a bonus or reward, a decent Christmas party, get looked after and get to see their family at good times and with optimism about life, instead of a singeing iron foot on their head, and preservation of their clean heart for what they believe in – just like the NHS says – autonomy and person-centered “choice”. All sounds like a gimmick really. “Empowerment”. “Patient choice agenda”. “Harassment and bullying”. You’ve played your part long enough. But, the perverse part is that you must still respect the choice of the unvaccinated public, and treat vaccinated or not vaccinated with utter reverence even without their mask on, when knowingly you know that you’re treated like a second grade citizen, de-professionalised slave and robot, to an NHS juggernaut. Dispensable with your comedy like “burnout” and mental anguish. No one cares about your post-traumatic stress. They clapped and said “Hooray, you’re going to be fired in 2 years…hooray”. Like I said, let us be clear on who spread this virus this winter – the vaccinated public – categorically, not the unvaccinated. Just pull the data from 20th December and see what really happened. Who wasn’t isolating? Who wasn’t wearing the mask – was it the polarised anti-vaxxar. And this notion, that someone that does not want a vaccine out of choice (but may encourage others to have one, for example a midwife) being automatically termed a dangerous radicalised “anti-vaxxar” is plain childish. It doesn’t. This doesn’t apply to armed forces, police, teachers, hospitality or transport infrastructure. It is not about patient facing – it is about public facing. Grow up. Pulse’s next article should be where exactly the the Juggernaut is currently stealing the world’s healthcare workforce – we know some, India, Pakistan, Taiwan, Mongolia, China, Nigeria, Ethiopia. The list goes on. That “golden” handshake of soiled fools gold and the current UK staff thinking, what am I even worth anymore in this perverted, inert and two-faced system.

Dave Haddock 20 January, 2022 6:30 pm

Good article, thank you.
The confusion of anti-vax with anti-compulsion is widespread.

Stephen Fowler 21 January, 2022 5:06 pm

All patient facing staff have to have a Hepatitis B vaccine – what’s the difference with mandating this vaccine?

Dave Haddock 24 January, 2022 7:37 pm

Does the considerable differences in vaccine uptake between ethnic groups mean that the vaccine mandate policy is a racist policy?