COVID-19: Care home staff urged to get vaccine after Matt Hancock reveals only two-thirds have had jabs

Care home staff are being urged by Downing Street to get vaccinated after it was revealed about a third of social care staff had not received a COVID jab.

The government has met the first target of the UK’s vaccination programme, with the top four priority groups having been offered a jab.

But, despite more than 15 million vaccines having been administered so far, Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Monday admitted take-up had been higher among some groups than others.

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He said the figure among health care staff was “a little bit lower than 90%”, with “around two-thirds” of social care staff having had jabs and “four-fifths” of NHS staff receiving their first dose.

Asked about the take-up among care staff later on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “We are asking everybody to come forward and take the vaccine.

“We’ve been clear that it is safe and effective and not only provides protection but it also provides protection for those around them.

“So of course we’re asking everybody to come forward and take the vaccines, including care home workers.”

Asked if care home staff were being irresponsible for declining jabs, the spokesman said: “I think the important thing is for us to encourage them to come forward and take the vaccine.”

He added that “vaccines are not mandatory” when asked about reports that some care home employers have told staff they cannot come to work if they are not vaccinated.

Among the other top priority groups for vaccines, Mr Hancock revealed more than 90% of over-70s had received a jab, with 97% of those aged 75-79 having taken up the vaccine offer.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England which represents private care providers, called for extra efforts to reach care home staff and to counter misinformation.

He told Sky News: “It is vital that as many residents and staff in care services are vaccinated in order to ensure the protection of vulnerable people.

“I have no reason to challenge the figures given by the secretary of state and if there are barriers to staff being vaccinated, we must ensure that vaccinations are administered where the staff are, rather than thinking staff will be able to attend vaccination centres.

“We must also ensure there is good information about vaccinations so that some of the myths that are circulating via the internet are challenged.”

The prime minister said the vaccine numbers were “very good” for older age groups, as he also urged those who had not yet been jabbed to book an appointment.

“These jabs, these vaccines are safe, they are efficacious, they will help protect you against disease and against death and they’re a wonderful thing to have – they help protect you, your family, your neighbours,” Mr Johnson said on a visit to a London vaccination centre on Monday.

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), earlier said the rollout of COVID vaccines had been “remarkable”.

But, speaking to Sky News, Prof Harnden added: “We’ve got problems not only with care home staff, we’ve got problems with BAME groups, reaching out to socially deprived populations, homelessness.

“There are a number of people that we really need to reach out and persuade that these vaccines are safe and effective.”

Under the JCVI’s recommendation for vaccine prioritisation, the next group to receive jabs are the over-65s, who will begin to receive vaccine invitations this week.

Once over-65s have been invited, they will then be followed by all those over 16 with underlying health conditions, the over-60s, the over-55s and then the over-50s.

The government is aiming to offer a vaccine to the first nine priority groups by May.

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