Coronavirus vaccinations will be compulsory for all staff working in care homes in England from 11 November, unless they are medically exempt from getting the jab, according to government guidance.
Ministers published new regulations on Thursday to help managers adjust to a change in the law, which applies to all people working in care homes registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
In addition to regular staff, anyone entering a care home, such as healthcare professionals, CQC inspectors, tradespeople, hairdressers and beauticians, must have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.
However, friends and relatives of care home residents will be exempt from the regulations, as well as residents themselves, members of the emergency services and those offering bereavement support.
“We value the incredible work that people in care homes have done over the last 18 months to care for some of the people who are most at risk from Covid-19,” the guidance says.
“We want to ensure that care homes are as safe as possible for the staff working in them and the people they care for.
“We believe that the best way to do this is to ensure that everyone who can take up the offer of vaccination, does.”
The compulsory measure is controversial due to ethical concerns about the risk of discrimination for those who choose not to get, or cannot get, the vaccine.
Multiple care groups and unions have also raised concerns about the policy, with some warning that the measure could cause further difficulties for a sector that has already been struggling to recruit workers.
In June, the Equality and Human Rights Commission concluded that it was “reasonable” to legally require vaccinations for care home staff but urged ministers to include exemptions for those who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons.
It also advised the government to ensure “easy access” to vaccination by making sure that workers do not face any financial harm from getting the jab, such as additional travel costs or loss of pay due to taking time off for side effects.
The new mandatory vaccination rules were approved by MPs last month, with 16 September set to be the last date for staff to get their first dose in order to be fully-vaccinated by the time that the requirement comes into force.
At the time of the vote, MPs from both the Conservatives and Labour criticised ministers for not publishing a full impact assessment on the measures before putting them to the Commons.
Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans said that the situation was “totally unsatisfactory” after health minister Helen Whately told MPs that the assessment was still “being worked on” on the day of the vote.
Additional reporting by PA