LONDON (Reuters) -Britain is highly likely to require front-line health and social care workers in England to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of its plan to contain the virus through the winter.
Setting out the thinking on how the government would respond to the health service coming under unsustainable pressure if there is a resurgence in the virus, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Tuesday he was considering toughening the rules.
"I believe that it is highly likely that front line NHS staff and those working in wider social care settings will also have to be vaccinated to protect those that are around them," Javid told parliament.
"Data continues to show that the link between cases, hospitalisations, and deaths has weakened significantly since the start of the pandemic," the government said in its plan, entitled "COVID-19 Response: Autumn and Winter Plan".
Were England to go ahead with the plan it would follow France, Italy and other countries in ordering its healthcare workers to have the vaccine to protect patients. Britain said in June it would be mandatory for care home workers in England to have the vaccine.
Javid said the government had launched a consultation on protecting vulnerable patients by making COVID-19 and flu vaccinations a condition of deployment for frontline health and wider social care staff in England.
The announcement came as he set out to parliament a Plan B for dealing with the virus if the situation deteriorates. More than 80% of British adults have had both doses of the vaccine but with restrictions eased, new daily infection numbers are regularly running at more than 30,000.
Daily fatalities in the last seven days have averaged 141.
Plan B would include a mandatory vaccine certificate in some settings, legally mandating face coverings in certain settings and the government would consider asking people to work from home again for a limited period.
The plans said the government "would seek to give businesses at least one week’s notice" before a requirement for mandatory vaccine certificates came into force.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Paul Sandle; editing by Michael Holden)