Up to a fifth of staff at some care homes decline Covid-19 vaccine, figures show

Jemma Crew, PA Social Affairs Correspondent
·5-min read

Up to a fifth of staff in some care home groups have refused a coronavirus vaccine when offered, the PA news agency has been told, with suggestions that younger workers are more likely to be resistant.

The majority of care home staff who have been offered the jab are getting vaccinated but data obtained by PA from a number of providers shows between five per cent and 21% of staff offered a vaccine have declined it.

The Prime Minister has called on everyone to get the jab when it is their turn and care providers say it is vital that staff and residents get the vaccine as soon as possible.

There is currently no regular data from the NHS or Government on how many residents and staff have been given the vaccine, and how many have refused a jab.

Watch: Coronavirus vaccines in numbers

Care groups have been calling for daily figures so they can check if the Government is on track to have offered vaccines to all residents by January 24 and address any take-up issues.

Boris Johnson said on Friday that almost 40% of elderly residents have been vaccinated.

One large UK care home group, which asked to remain anonymous, said more than half of residents and 36.8% of staff have had at least one dose as of January 14.

However, 21% of staff and 2.7% of residents offered the vaccine had chosen not to take it up.

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Frontline health and care staff are quite rightly considered a priority for vaccination because they are at high risk of contracting the virus.

“Getting vaccinated will help protect themselves, their colleagues and their patients.

“The Covid-19 vaccine is our most important tool in protecting people from the virus, and helping to get life back to normal.

“Both vaccines that we’re currently using in the UK have undergone rigorous testing to ensure they are safe and effective – as such, we’d urge anyone who is offered a jab to have one.”

Nadra Ahmed, from the National Care Association (NCA), said there has been a reduction in refusals following a strong push from providers to address fears and anxieties.

She said information from members and other industry bodies suggests around 6%-8% of care staff still remain nervous or resistant due to health and cultural reasons, down from 18%-20% at the start of the rollout.

Many are now being persuaded as they see colleagues get the jab, she added.

The NCA is seeking legal advice on whether care workers could be forced to take the jab.

As of January 14, 47% of residents and 37% of staff in the 200+ homes run by Barchester Healthcare had been given at least one dose of one of the approved vaccines.

It is understood that 5% of staff offered a jab have refused it.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

A spokesman said: “It is vital to the safety of our residents and patients that all of our staff, residents and patients should have the Covid-19 vaccination as soon as possible.

“We are playing our part in the national fight against Covid-19 and we feel that we must do whatever we can to protect our residents and patients, as reflected in the Barchester purpose and values.”

The figure for staff refusals at Sunrise Senior Living and Gracewell Healthcare’s 46 care homes is around 8% of those offered, and just 1% for residents, with more than half of residents now vaccinated.

Anna Selby, head of the group’s Covid-19 taskforce, said those refusing the vaccine tend to be younger staff and there appears to be a “feeling of invincibility”.

She said: “I think it could go two ways: either we will start to see this rise because all those who wanted it have taken the slots and all those who don’t want it will start refusing, because they can’t refuse something they haven’t been offered, although they can say they are going to, which is worrying… but I don’t know if what people say now is actually a true reflection of what they’ll actually do when the time comes for them to get it.

“The other thing that could happen is more and more people are being vaccinated and talking about their lives opening up again, and people will feel a bit silly for not wanting it and they’ll jump aboard.”

Care England said feedback from its members about take-up rates has been positive overall.

Chief executive Professor Martin Green said: “We are working to make it as easy as possible for staff to be vaccinated. So far, we understand that the uptake has been good.

“We would like real-time data from the NHS broken down by residents and staff so we can get a handle on whether this is a widespread problem.”

One large care provider group said they had seen “strong” take-up while another said it did not collect take-up data centrally but that individual homes were keeping track.

Mike Padgham, who runs four care homes in North Yorkshire, said all but a handful of his 160 staff have received a vaccine.

Some 14 staff members have refused it, with three since changing their minds.

PA has asked the NHS about whether it is concerned about uptake figures that are emerging and how they compare to uptake of the flu vaccine.

An NHS spokeswoman said: “Thanks to the dedication of NHS staff, tens of thousands of care home residents and staff have already been vaccinated with the NHS working hard to vaccinate as many people from these top priority groups as quickly as possible.”

Minister for care Helen Whately said: “We are immensely grateful for the unwavering compassion of those working in care homes, caring for older adults who are most vulnerable to Covid-19, who are rightly being offered vaccines now.

“We have provided over a billion pounds of additional funding to support social care during this pandemic – as well as free PPE, regular testing and prioritising the vaccination rollout to care home residents and staff.

“Vaccines are the way out of this pandemic and we encourage those who have been offered a vaccination to book their appointment as soon as possible.”

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