NHS workers will have to be fully vaccinated against Covid by April

Records show 100,000 NHS workers in the UK have not been

Immunisation Nurse Debbie Briody administers the Pfizer/BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine to Staff Nurse Amanda Thompson at the NHS Louisa Jordan temporary hospital at the SEC Campus in Glasgow, Scotland on January 23, 2021.   / AFP / Andy Buchanan
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The British government says all healthcare staff who work with the public will have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus starting in April, despite concerns the move could drive thousands to quit their jobs.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid on Tuesday said that 90 per cent of staff in the state-funded National Health Service have already received two doses of a vaccine.

But that leaves more than 100,000 health workers unvaccinated.

Mr Javid told the House of Commons that, while vaccination is not compulsory for most people, health workers carry a unique responsibility because they are in contact with those most vulnerable to illness.

He said the rule would not take effect until April 1, which would give all staff time to receive two doses.

There will be exceptions made for those who are medically exempt and staff who do not meet members of the public.

The change applies in England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set their own health rules.

Trade unions opposed making vaccinations compulsory, saying it could encourage staff to quit the already stretched health system.

The government already requires nursing home staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19, with Thursday the deadline.

Mr Javid said that since the rule was announced, the number of unvaccinated care workers had fallen from 88,000 to 32,000.

He told Parliament the same results could be expected of the new requirement.

“It is about making sure that people are encouraged to take a positive choice," Mr Javid said.

“No one should scapegoat or single out anyone, anyone in the NHS or social care who has for whatever reason … at this point chosen not to get vaccinated.”

Britain was one of the first countries in the world to start coronavirus vaccinations but, as in many countries, the campaign has slowed to a crawl after a strong start.

About 80 per cent of people over the age of 12 in the UK have had two doses of vaccine.

Britain also is offering third booster doses to people at heightened risk from the virus, including everyone over 50.

The UK has recorded almost 142,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest total in Europe after Russia.

Updated: November 10, 2021, 4:01 AM