UK health workers facing April 1 deadline for vaccinations, minister says

UK health workers facing April 1 deadline for vaccinations, minister says
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U.K. Health Minister Sajid Javid announced Tuesday that health and care staff who interact with patients face-to-face will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by April 1 in order to keep their jobs. 

"Vaccines save lives & we must take every possible step to protect the most vulnerable," Javid said in a tweet. 

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Vaccination will be compulsory for health and social care workers such as doctors, nurses, dentists and domiciliary care workers, for ancillary staff such as porters and receptionists and for volunteers.

In order to be deployed, workers in each of those categories will need to show evidence of full vaccination, the U.K. government's website states, unless they meet qualifications for exemption.

The first deadline, for care home workers, is Nov. 11. 

The U.K. government has stated that about 90 percent of National Health Service (NHS) employees are already fully vaccinated. About 90 percent have gotten both shots and nearly 93 percent have gotten at least one.

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The numbers for domiciliary care workers are lower, however: Nearly 75 percent are fully vaccinated, while about 84 percent have gotten at least one shot.

"Ensuring the maximum number of NHS staff are vaccinated will help ensure the most vulnerable patients gain the greatest possible levels of protection against infection. Elderly people, those with disabilities and some seriously ill people in hospital face a higher risk from COVID-19 than the wider population, and are more likely to use health and care services more often," the government states in its announcement.

The government noted that, in addition to health and care patients, the mandate will also protect workers who are in frequent contact with the disease by nature of their work. 

The statement says that vaccinated people are 50 to 60 percent less likely to get infected with COVID-19 — including asymptomatic infections — than unvaccinated people.

"Vaccines save lives and patient safety is paramount. Many of the people being treated in hospitals or cared for at home are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. We have a responsibility to give patients and staff the best possible protection," Javid said.