Andy Burnham has criticised a ‘sledgehammer’ Government policy which will prevent care home workers from staying in their roles if they are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by 11 November this year.
Previous data analysis of vaccination rates by ManchesterWorld on 1 October estimated around 1,800 local employees were at risk in the sector because of the policy - as many as one in 10 staff in some Greater Manchester areas.
Speaking to ManchesterWorld, Mr Burnham said the situation was improving in terms of getting care home staff vaccinated, but rates varied across individual care homes and authorities were already offering support to those in need.
He also told of one care worker he’d spoken to who was about to lose her job after more than a decade in the role as she felt unable to take a vaccine.
Mr Burnham said: “The latest figures we have got are higher (than those on 1 October): we’re getting more towards the 93, 94, 95% mark (for care home staff vaccination). Overall that is quite high and in line with the national picture.
“I think when you then break it down to setting by setting, the percentage may vary. There certainly are some establishments where the rate is lower. Potentially some care homes may have a particular problem but the team at the partnership are already identifying where those issues might be.”
He added: “I have a concern about the (Government) policy. I think it’s wrong to single out care staff in this way.
“I met a care worker from Wigan who said she was about to be made redundant after 13 years as a carer and she had, from what I could tell, quite justifiable reasons for not wanting the vaccine. It just feels like a sledgehammer policy to me.
“There are some people who could perhaps be reassigned to less frontline positions or take a lateral flow test every day: there are ways of managing this when the overall vaccination rate is so high now of residents and staff.
“This feels wrong to me; I don’t think it should be happening. We’ve not ever in this country gone down a route of mandatory treatment or lose your job.”
What does the Government say in response?
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Our message is clear: vaccines save lives and while staff and residents in care homes have been prioritised and the majority are now vaccinated, it is our responsibility to do everything we can to reduce the risk for vulnerable people.
“Over 90% of care home staff have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine ahead of the 11 November deadline and we encourage even more staff to get vaccinated to protect their colleagues and those they care for.
“We are working closely with local authorities and care home providers to ensure there will always be enough staff with the right skills to deliver high quality care.”
They added those who are medically exempt from vaccinations can apply for formal proof of this.