Employment for frontline healthcare workers should be “conditional” on Covid-19 vaccination, according to an article in a medical journal.
The piece published in the Journal of Medical Ethics suggests that unless staff have a valid medical reason not to get the jab, it should be a condition of employment.
Those who refuse should be redeployed, or potentially suspended, according to the ethicists.
They argue that the ramifications of not getting vaccinated would justify the move.
The Government has already launched a consultation on whether people working in care homes with older adults should be required to have a Covid-19 vaccine.
The five-week consultation was launched on April 14.
Now the opinion piece calls for more to be done to ensure wider healthcare staff have received a vaccine.
“We argue that healthcare workers refusing vaccination without a medical reason should be temporarily redeployed and, if their refusal persists after the redeployment period, eventually suspended, in order to reduce the risk to their colleagues and patients,” is said.
Dr Owen Bradfield, from the University of Melbourne, and Dr Alberto Giubilini, from the University of Oxford, argue that making it a condition of employment, or of professional registration, is a “compromise” between entirely voluntary or entirely mandatory vaccination policies.
They wrote: “Within healthcare settings, vaccine choices can have even greater ramifications which, when coupled with the seriousness of Covid-19, justifies at least a mild form of mandatory vaccination policy for frontline healthcare workers.
“We believe that this should take the form of conditional employment or conditional professional registration, although temporary redeployment could be adopted if this does not entail
significant costs to patients, to vaccinated colleagues and to the healthcare system.
“It is plausible that this would be the least restrictive policy that is most likely to achieve adequate vaccination uptake to reduce transmission of Covid-19 from unvaccinated frontline healthcare workers to their patients and colleagues and satisfy ethical and professional requirements.
“The risk to patients and the community posed by unvaccinated frontline healthcare workers outweighs concerns that conditional vaccination policies are coercive, provided that public health messages engage with people from diverse communities and groups within society.”
Data suggests the vast majority of staff employed by NHS trusts in England have been vaccinated.
Figures up to May 2 show that 1.2 million staff who appear on the electronic staff record had received their first Covid-19 vaccination and more than a million had had a second dose.
There are 1.3 million workers on the electronic staff record, including 1.1 million who are frontline.