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Staff in care homes with older adult residents in England may be required to have a COVID-19 vaccine to protect residents from the virus as the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) launches a new consultation.

The department says that making these vaccines mandatory would help protect older people living in care homes, who are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Experts on the social care working group of SAGE advise 80 percent of staff and 90 percent of residents need to be vaccinated to provide a minimum level of protection against outbreaks of COVID-19. However, according to DHSC, only 53 percent of older adult homes in England are currently meeting this threshold.

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This means nearly half of all care homes with older adult residents, home to 150,000 vulnerable people, don’t meet SAGE’s recommended vaccination thresholds for care homes and staff.

Currently, the staff vaccination rate is below 80 percent in 89 local authority areas – more than half – and all 32 London boroughs. There are 27 local authority areas with a staff vaccination rate below 70 percent.

In light of these statistics, the UK Government has launched a five-week consultation looking at requiring care home providers, caring for older adults, to deploy only those workers who have received their COVID-19 vaccination to further protect residents who are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, and staff.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Older people living in care homes are most at risk of suffering serious consequences of COVID-19 and we have seen the grave effects the virus has had on this group.

“Making vaccines a condition of deployment is something many care homes have called for, to help them provide greater protection for staff and residents in older people’s care homes and so save lives.

“The vaccine is already preventing deaths and is our route out of this pandemic. We have a duty of care to those most vulnerable to COVID-19, so it is right we consider all options to keep people safe.”

The consultation will not include those who can provide evidence of a medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination.

Additionally, the consultation will help inform decision-making around how the change could be implemented and whether respondents think it will be beneficial.

The consultation will seek views on the proposal, its scope, any potential impact it could have on staffing and safety, as well as how it is implemented and who could be exempt.

Staff, providers, stakeholders, residents and their families are being urged to take part to have their views heard with a final decision expected this summer. The deadline for submitting views for this proposal is 11:45pm on 21 May 2021.

You can submit your views on this consultation here

In response to the government’s announcement of a consultation on staff vaccination in adult care homes, James Bullion, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) President, said:  “The vaccination programme represents a major step forward in the fight against Covid-19, particularly in residential settings such as care homes.

“It is important to acknowledge that significant progress has been made towards keeping people safe in adult social care with an increasing number of people living in and working in care homes being vaccinated, but there is more to be done.

“We encourage all social care colleagues, those with care and support needs, and the wider population to take up the offer of a vaccination.

“We welcome the announcement of the consultation on what is a difficult question for the Government and all involved, but it is important that whatever is decided does not adversely impact the staffing numbers needed for safe and high-quality care. We should also think about this question alongside the urgent need to improve the employment deal for care workers.”

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