MPs back mandatory Covid vaccinations for care home staff

MPs have backed plans for care home staff to be vaccinated against Covid despite a parliamentary committee urging the Government to delay the vote due to concerns over the impact on staff shortages. 

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, on Tuesday pressed ahead with a vote on new regulations which will require people working in care homes to be fully vaccinated from October. 

The regulations – which passed by 319 votes to 246 – will also apply to healthcare workers, tradesmen, hairdressers and others who need to enter a home to do other work unless they have a medical exemption. 

There will be a 16-week grace period for care workers to get jabbed if they have failed to take up the offer already.

While the motion passed comfortably, ministers faced a fierce backlash from Conservative MPs who criticised the failure to set out the potential impact of the policy on the sector. 

They included Mark Harper, the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic Tory MPs, who described the failure to provide adequate information on a "difficult and controversial" subject as an "abuse" and "not good enough".

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour’s shadow health minister, also raised concerns about the prospect of staff shortages in care homes as a result of the mandatory vaccination policy, telling the Commons: "We already have a social care crisis – let’s not deepen it."

It will now move to the House of Lords for consideration. 

The row came hours after a Lords scrutiny committee urged Mr Javid to defer the vote after it warned that a "lack of clarity and practical detail about how the legislation is to operate" and a "confusing analysis of current vaccination levels in the sector" made effective scrutiny impossible.

Amid fears that the policy could also lead to people leaving the care sector, which is already facing a serious staffing crisis, the committee criticised the "absence of any assessment of the impact on the care home workforce and care homes in general". 

Despite their reservations, the Government pressed ahead with the vote, with Helen Whately, the minister for social care, telling MPs: "As we head towards a winter where care homes may have to battle with Covid and flu, the question we should ask ourselves is what more can we do?

"The majority of care home workers have already taken up the vaccine, and it’s essential that all care home workers who can have the vaccine do so in order to protect those in their care."

Thirty Tory MPs voted against the motion, surpassing a rebellion of 24 against cuts to the aid budget earlier in the day. 

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