In London on Monday there were increasing signs that the planned vaccination requirement for doctors and nurses in the National Health Service (NHS) would be overturned. Several newspapers reported that the decision had been made in the government and that Health Minister Sajid Javid only wanted to have it approved in the so-called Corona Cabinet. Nurses in old people’s homes, for whom vaccination was mandatory last year, would also be affected by the reversal.
The government had recently lifted all of the restrictions imposed on England at the start of the omicron wave, including the requirement to wear masks. From February 11th, the last remaining measures are to be abolished, including the obligation to test for those entering the country and the five-day quarantine for infected people.
The general all-clear for the Omicron variant and the fear that the NHS could lose up to 80,000 doctors and nurses are the reasons for the change of course in compulsory vaccination. A similar phenomenon had been observed after the introduction of compulsory vaccination for geriatric nurses. It is estimated that 40,000 of them had to resign because they were unable to present proof of vaccination by the deadline. They would now probably be reinstated because the sector is suffering from significant staff shortages.
The proportion of unvaccinated workers in the state NHS, which includes not only doctors and nurses, is five percent. The central representatives for nurses, midwives and general practitioners had repeatedly pushed for a postponement of compulsory vaccination in the past few weeks. The impact of this was described as “catastrophic”, also because the NHS was still under the stress of winter at the time of the planned introduction. After the reports about the upcoming change of course, several associations expressed relief. The prospect was also welcomed in the ranks of the Conservative Party.
According to the original plans announced last March, the obligation to provide proof of vaccination should take effect from April 1st. For this, the unvaccinated should have received their first injection by this Thursday at the latest. Unvaccinated people who could not be transferred to a patient-distant department would have been threatened with dismissal in April. The Daily Telegraph reported that the policy change will probably not be officially announced until the middle of this week, possibly to get a few more vaccinations. Many NHS workers had been persuaded to get vaccinated by the vaccination announcement.
The government decision is also seen as a consequence of its new slogan “learning to live with Covid”. Government officials involved in the decision were quoted Monday as saying “that Omicron has changed the situation.” Even if the variant is easier to transmit, “all studies have shown” that it is associated with less severe disease progression. “That has changed the discussion about whether compulsory vaccination is still proportionate.” Since mid-January, the number of daily hospital admissions has fallen below 2,000 again; tendency to fall further. The average number of daily corona deaths over the past seven days was 260.
After a sharp rise in December, the number of daily infections has also fallen since January 4 and was last hovering around 80,000. According to media reports, however, a significant statistical jump is expected for this week when the number of people infected again is added for the first time. So far, only initial infections have appeared in the official statistics.
Studies have suggested that around two-thirds of those currently infected have contracted it a second time. While the statistics supplement will correct the actual number of infections significantly upwards, it should also contribute to further relaxation. Finally, he again increases the ratio of corona cases to deaths and thus underlines the relative harmlessness of Omicron.