Having a Covid jab could become mandatory for NHS staff, the chief medical officer for England has suggested.
On Monday night, Prof Chris Whitty said it was a "professional responsibility" for all front line health workers to take whatever measures they could to safeguard patients.
In the strongest hint yet that officials are considering compulsory vaccination for staff, he pointed to the requirement for surgeons to have a hepatitis B vaccination before operating.
It follows mounting concern about poor take-up of the vaccine among NHS staff in some hospitals, related to wider hesitancy among some ethnic minority groups.
A recent analysis at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust found that 70.9 per cent of white staff had received the jab compared with 58.5 per cent of South Asian staff and 36.8 per cent of black staff.
The NHS is so concerned about the issue that it has re-deployed its knife crime czar, surgeon Dr Martin Griffiths, to counter misinformation among black, Asian and minority ethnic staff.
Asked about the low take-up at Monday evening's Downing Street press conference, Prof Whitty said: "My view is clearly for medical staff, where I am subject to the same code, it is a professional responsibility for doctors to do things which help protect their patients, and I expect that to be a professional responsibility for all other health and social care staff as well."
He said writing a requirement into health workers' employment contracts would be a political decision.
At the same press conference Boris Johnson spoke of "very high-quality care home groups" that were looking to make vaccination a condition of employment.
It came as care home residents learnt they will be able to receive personal care and help washing, eating and dressing from one relative or friend during visits.
The Government announced that residents who need extra support – such as those with advanced dementia, learning difficulties or autism – may need a trusted person to help them with daily tasks, according to the new roadmap.
The health of such residents may be in danger of "deteriorating very rapidly" without such care, it said. As a result, under the new guidelines care home residents will be allowed to have "one regular indoor visitor" from March 8.
The roadmap says: "In this type of situation, the Government will provide extra support to those visitors, whose visit is essential to the resident's immediate health and wellbeing and who are providing personal care, like help with washing and dressing or eating well.
"With the agreement of the care home, these visitors will have access to the same testing and personal protective equipment as care home staff so that they can play this important caring role."