COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of deployment - revocation consultation response
On 31 January, I announced this government’s intention to revoke the regulations making COVID-19 vaccination a condition of deployment in all health and social care settings, subject to consultation and parliamentary procedure.
My statement before the House on 31 January made clear that vaccination as a condition of deployment was the right policy when the original decision was taken, but that it is no longer proportionate in the light of the most recent clinical evidence regarding the current Omicron variant of COVID-19, which is intrinsically less severe than Delta, and the high rate of vaccination across the population.
On 9 February Government published a consultation document (Revoking vaccination as a condition of deployment across all health and social care). The consultation outlined the latest clinical evidence and the proposed way forward, and sought views from all interested parties on whether the regulations should be revoked, as well as what further steps could be taken to increase vaccine uptake.
The consultation received over 90,000 responses from across the health and social care sector, as well as from members of the public. My Department also conducted engagement sessions with sector representatives. I am grateful to all those who have taken the time to respond to the consultation.
My Department’s officials have carefully analysed the consultation responses. The vast majority of the feedback received supported revocation, with 90% of respondents agreeing that the requirement for COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of deployment in health and social care settings should be revoked.
I have considered this strong preference for revocation, the relevant equalities assessment, and the scientific evidence. I have concluded that it is right and proportionate to proceed with revocation of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of deployment in all health and social care settings, and have today published the government’s full response to the consultation on GOV.UK. I am also laying the regulations to revoke vaccination as a condition of deployment today. These regulations will come into force on 15 March, and will remove the requirements already in place in care homes, as well as those due to come into force in health and wider social care settings on 1 April 2022.
Irrespective of this step, and while we have a number of defences and mitigations in place, such as antivirals and PPE, vaccination continues to be our most important weapon in the fight against COVID-19. I have made it clear that I consider it a professional responsibility for health and care staff, and others who work in the health and social care sectors, to be vaccinated, and I am glad to note that the professional regulators, the Royal Colleges, the Chief Medical Officer, the Chief Nursing Officer, and the Chief Midwifery Officer among others, agree with this. It is encouraging that 92% of the NHS workforce and 95% of care home staff are now vaccinated with two doses, while 89% of home (domiciliary) care staff have so far received at least one dose of the vaccine.
This government is committed to working with the health and social care sectors to engage with those who are yet to make the positive choice to be vaccinated. In adult social care, the Vaccine Boosters Taskforce has published a paper to support good practice for driving booster vaccination in England. In addition, Government has committed to consulting on updating the Code of Practice on the prevention and control of infections, which applies to all CQC registered providers of all healthcare and social care in England, to strengthen requirements in relation to COVID-19, including reflecting the latest advice on infection prevention control.
While we commit to these actions, we also have measures in place to ensure that those most vulnerable to COVID-19 remain protected in health and social care settings, as well as across the country. While the shielding programme ended on 15 September 2021, we have made new antibody and antiviral treatments available to people who are at highest risk of becoming seriously ill who test positive for COVID-19, to help reduce the development of severe COVID-19. On 21 February 2022, government launched its ‘Living with COVID-19’ plan. The plan confirms that both NHS and adult social care will continue to provide access to free PPE to the end of March 2023, or until the IPC guidance on PPE usage for COVID-19 is amended or superseded. Revocation of these regulations plays an important and proportionate role within government’s approach in ensuring that our entire society, including the health and social care sectors, can learn to safely live with COVID-19.
The government’s response to the consultation is published on GOV.UK.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords