MPs have approved compulsory coronavirus vaccinations for care home workers in England.
From October, anyone working in a care home registered with the Care Quality Commission must have had two Covid-19 jabs, unless they have a medical exemption.
The rule will apply to all workers employed directly by the care home or care home provider, those employed by an agency and working in a care home, and volunteers deployed in a care home.
It will also apply to people coming into care homes to do other work, such as healthcare workers, hairdressers and beauticians and tradespeople.
MPs voted in favour of the regulations by 319 votes to 246, but there was widespread criticism of the fact that an impact assessment had not been published before the vote.
Conservative MP Mark Harper said: “It isn’t good enough to expect us to vote on something that is difficult and controversial and complicated, and not share the information with the House that the minister has at her disposal. It is an abuse. It’s not good enough.”
Health minister Helen Whatley said an impact assessment was being worked on and suggested that care homes could discuss the vaccine with their staff or help look for an alternative role for those that did not want to be vaccinated.
Conservative MP William Wragg raised concern about a care worker who feared losing her job because of the policy, asking: “Is that what we’re prepared to do to our fellow citizens as a Conservative government?”
Almost 30,000 more care home residents in England and Wales died during the Covid-19 pandemic than during the same period in 2019, according to official figures released earlier this month.
The government is expected to launch another consultation on whether it should make Covid-19 and flu vaccination a condition of employment in both health and care settings.
Barchester is among the care home operators that has already made Covid-19 vaccinations a condition of employment.
CEO Dr Pete Calveley said: “We believe that we should all do whatever possible to protect the most vulnerable of society, therefore we welcome the government’s proposal to require everyone working in a care home to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
“We took the decision in February that staff working in a Barchester care home or hospital must be vaccinated and we have carried out extensive engagement programmes with staff, as well as one-to-one support to encourage this.
“As a result we are seeing strong uptake and positive engagement with Covid-19 vaccination, and we are delighted that the outcome is that 99% of our staff are willing to have the vaccine.”