The government has refused to investigate whether a consultation on care worker vaccinations was hijacked by anti-vaccine activists, after its findings suggested that two-thirds of disabled and older people would prefer that their care workers were not protected against COVID-19.
The results show that 68 per cent of people who claimed they were current service-users – or their relatives or friends – said they felt strongly or would prefer that those providing their care were not vaccinated against COVID-19.
More than 1,100 of those respondents who claimed to be a service-user or a relative or friend of a service-user – 58 per cent of this group – said they felt strongly that the care worker should not be vaccinated.
The results also show that only 28 per cent of this group said they felt strongly that the care workers providing their care should be vaccinated against coronavirus.
Overall, less than three in 10 respondents (29 per cent) to the consultation were supportive of the government’s plans for compulsory COVID-19 vaccination for staff in social care settings.
The consultation results were included in the Department of Health and Social Care’s response to the consultation, which was published last week.
The government has already made it mandatory – with limited exceptions – for care home staff in England to be vaccinated, a measure that came into force on 11 November.
But the consultation asked for views about extending these rules to those in the NHS and to all social care services regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in England – again, with limited exceptions – including many thousands of care workers providing support in people’s homes.
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said last week that he would ignore the results of the consultation and had instead concluded that all those working in the NHS and (CQC regulated) social care will have to be vaccinated, a measure that will come into force on 1 April 2022.
Disabled activist Dennis Queen, herself an employer of personal assistants (PAs), said she was “extremely surprised” by the survey’s outcome.
She said: “Most people I have discussed this with who use social care are vaccinated themselves and would prefer their care staff, support workers, or personal assistants to be vaccinated against COVID, as well.”
She pointed out that direct employers of PAs will not be affected by the new rules, so it will remain their own responsibility to navigate the vaccination issue within equality and employment law and advice from their insurers.
She said: “Thousands of disabled people – including many people with learning difficulties and elders – have died from COVID since March 2020, due to care staff bringing infections to work in large institutions. Nobody consulted with those disabled people.”
She added: “I’m worried about the consequences of this research, and we should scrutinize the process.”
Fazilet Hadi, head of policy for Disability Rights UK, said the proportion of service-users and their friends and family who did not want their care worker to be vaccinated “sounds far too high”.
She said: “Disability Rights UK supports government plans to make COVID vaccinations compulsory for all health and care workers, unless there is a medical exemption.
“We believe that all reasonable safeguards need to be put in place, to ensure that disabled people receiving care are protected from COVID.”
Svetlana Kotova, director of campaigns and justice at Inclusion London, said: “We know from experience disabled people who need social care support want to be safe from COVID.
“Vaccines are a good way to achieve this.
“However, we believe the government needs to be mindful when introducing compulsory vaccinations since there are huge staff shortages in the sector.”
Javid said last week that data shows how vaccinations have kept people safe and have saved lives, which was “especially true for vulnerable people in health and care settings”.
He added: “And I’m mindful, not only of our need to protect human life, but our imperative to protect the NHS and those services upon which we all rely.”
DHSC refused to say this week if it was concerned that members of the anti-vaccine movement could have hijacked the consultation, and whether it would investigate the possibility.
But a DHSC spokesperson said: “As the health and social care secretary said, NHS and care staff do amazing work and we are thankful to those who have chosen to get the vaccine.
“It is our responsibility to do everything we can to protect vulnerable people.
“In addition to the 34,900 responses to the consultation, we also held roundtable events with royal colleges, representative bodies, and unions, to ensure a diverse range of opinion was represented through the process.
“We have carefully considered the responses received, and set out our formal consultation response.”
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