As the deadline for the NHS vaccine mandate approaches and worries about staff shortages and unfair treatment rise, a leaked document from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) issues ministers with a stark warning, saying the new evidence on Omicron – showing vaccine effectiveness dropping to zero – casts doubts over the new law’s “rationality” and “proportionality”. The Guardian has the story.
Two jabs will become compulsory for frontline NHS staff from April 1st after MPs voted on the legislation last month.
But the document, drawn up by Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) officials and seen by the Guardian, said the evidence base on which MPs voted “has changed”, creating a higher chance of objections and judicial review.
The effectiveness of only two vaccine doses against Omicron, and the lower likelihood of hospitalisations from the milder variant, are cited.
More than 70,000 NHS staff – 4.9% – could remain unvaccinated by April 1st, the document says. NHS trusts in England are preparing to start sending dismissal letters from February 3rd to any member of staff who has not had their first dose by then.
Amid significant pressures on the NHS, last week groups including the Royal College of Nursing urged Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, to delay the legislation, known as “vaccination as a condition of deployment” (VCOD2). An earlier VCOD1 rule applied to care workers and came into force on November 11th.
On Tuesday the Royal College of Nursing said the leaked memo should prompt ministers to call a halt to the imposition of compulsory jabs, which it called “reckless”. …
The document prepared by DHSC officials noted that two vaccine doses provide up to 32% effectiveness against Omicron infection, which wanes to in effective zero 20 weeks later.
At the time the policy was developed, two-dose effectiveness against infection with the Delta variant was substantially higher – 65% with Oxford/AstraZeneca and 80% with Pfizer/BioNTech, the DHSC memo said.
Booster jabs have since been shown to be highly effective but are not part of the law for NHS workers.