Three in four care home providers are employing staff who have refused their Covid jab, a Daily Mail survey reveals today.
The worrying figures have come to light as ministers consider making vaccines compulsory for social care workers to protect the lives of vulnerable residents.
One in ten providers said between a quarter and half of employees had not been inoculated.
Some workers were worried about the safety of jabs, others had declined them for religious reasons, while several claimed the vaccination programme was a ‘conspiracy’.
Even though most occupants have already been inoculated, the vaccines will not be nearly as effective at preventing the virus as in younger, healthy groups
But by declining jabs, they are endangering the lives of frail, elderly residents in their care.
Even though most occupants have already been inoculated, the vaccines will not be nearly as effective at preventing the virus as in younger, healthy groups.
Thirty-eight care providers in the UK were questioned, covering 337 homes and 15,800 elderly residents.
Of these, 27 organisations said at least one employee had refused one or both doses.
These included two of the country’s largest providers – Four Seasons and Care UK – as well as small and medium-sized organisations which are members of the National Care Association.
Jayne Connery, from the Care Campaign for the Vulnerable monitoring group, said: ‘It’s worrying staff aren’t being vaccinated.
‘I can understand families are concerned, especially if their refusal to be given the jab is going to prohibit families returning to normal visiting routines in care homes.
‘I don’t think enough information or explanation is being given to carers and I urge the Government to make this a priority.’
Some workers were worried about the safety of jabs, others had declined them for religious reasons, while several claimed the vaccination programme was a ‘conspiracy’ [File photo]
Caroline Abrahams, of charity Age UK, said: ‘To help keep older people safe and to allow as much visiting to happen as possible we urgently need everyone who works in and around care homes to be fully vaccinated.
‘Before going anywhere near making vaccination mandatory we’d like to be clear that everything possible has been done to encourage voluntary take-up among staff.’
The Department of Health is currently consulting on whether to make the vaccines a compulsory condition of employment for social care staff amid concern over the low uptake.
Care minister Helen Whately said: ‘Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic – they protect you, those around you and have already saved thousands of lives.
‘I know people might feel hesitant at first about getting vaccinated but I want to encourage all social care staff to come forward for their jab if they haven’t already.’
There is a precedent for mandatory vaccines as all doctors are required to be inoculated against Hepatitis B.
The consultation closes on May 21 and while some care home bosses believe compulsory staff vaccines will save lives, others fear it will leave the sector even more understaffed.
Latest NHS data shows 19 per cent of care home staff have refused at least one jab although there are no figures for individual homes.
One manager of a care home in west London told the Mail that a third of staff had refused the jab and said many were ‘anti-vaxxers’.
He added: ‘One of them thought her DNA would be tampered with, another said she trusted her immunity and she wasn’t going to get Covid. Another believed the virus didn’t exist and had been manufactured. I have genuine concerns about people working in health and social care who say they have the interests of the elderly at heart, but then refuse to have a vaccine that could save their lives. It’s not rocket science.’
Other reasons for refusal by staff included pregnancy – even though mums-to-be have been urged to come forward, a fear of vaccinations and not being able to get to sites offering the jabs.
The survey also found 26 care home providers were aware that residents’ physical and mental health had declined due to not being able to see loved ones during lockdown. In December, the Mail highlighted this by launching its Let Them Hold Hands campaign.
Eleven providers said they were still experiencing problems accessing tests for staff and residents – nearly a year after the Government first rolled them out to care homes. And 15 providers were worried homes would be forced to close due to low occupancy levels.
Many families are reluctant to put elderly relatives in care homes following the appalling death toll during the pandemic.
Nadra Ahmed, of the National Care Association, said: ‘Vaccination uptake has enabled us to move forward as a nation and nowhere is it more critical than in health and care settings. It is imperative workers are supported to access the vaccine, having received the information they need to make informed judgments and so protect themselves and those they support.’