Just eight per cent of staff in British care homes have had their autumn Covid booster jab.
The latest Government data also showed that fewer than two-thirds of healthcare workers have had an extra dose.
The figures show a steep fall off from the previous round of Covid jabs – more than 84 per cent of care home workers have had at least two Covid vaccines.
It comes as experts warn of a fresh wave of vaccine hesitancy among medical teams, with senior doctors having to be deployed to educate junior staff on vaccine safety.
Jut one in eight care home staff have received their latest Covid-19 vaccine top up according to shocking new figures
Care workers and healthcare staff were the first Britons to be offered the autumn booster in early September. Since then, all over-50s and vulnerable people have been called up
‘My hospital has asked me to give a talk explaining why it’s so important staff have the booster to protect our patients,’ one senior doctor said. ‘There are still some healthcare workers who think the vaccines are a conspiracy. But, mostly, people are fed up with Covid and are sick of getting vaccines. At our hospital, fewer than half of staff have had their booster.’
Care workers and healthcare staff were the first Britons to be offered the autumn booster in early September. Since then, all over-50s and vulnerable people have been called up. It comes weeks after experts warned of an incoming ‘twindemic’, with high levels of Covid and flu expected this winter which could overwhelm the health service.
While Covid cases have fallen in recent weeks, experts say a resurgence is likely in the coming months.
A University College London study predicted a January wave of Covid infections comparable with the record-high Omicron wave of last Christmas.
Health chiefs have launched a new marketing campaign to encourage more Britons to have the jab amid disappointing take-up figures.
Less than half those eligible have had their latest jab, according to the latest numbers. Experts say the latest wave of vaccine hesitancy among care home staff is a direct consequence of the Government’s ‘No Jab, No Job’ policy – which banned unvaccinated care staff from working with patients.
A University College London study predicted a January wave of Covid infections comparable with the record-high Omicron wave of last Christmas
More than 40,000 care home staff lost their jobs in England as a result of the policy introduced last November – before it was scrapped two months later.
But reports suggest tens of thousands did not return after the ruling ended.
‘Since the disastrous “No Jabs, No Jobs” policy, Covid vaccines have become politicised in the care sector,’ says Nadra Ahmed, of the National Care Association.
‘Before the policy, we were doing well at getting workers to come forward for the jab. Now that trust is broken and many are resistant to getting another.
‘Staffing levels are already dangerously low. If a large proportion of staff are off sick, then homes won’t be able to function,’ she adds.
While the risk of care home workers falling severely ill with Covid without the booster are low – the average age of a care home worker is 45 – experts say not getting the extra jab will increase the risk of virus outbreaks in homes, as well as staff shortages.
‘One of the reasons care home workers are being offered the jab is because we need to limit outbreaks in care homes as much as possible this winter,’ says Professor Peter Openshaw, an immunologist at Imperial College London.
‘Even if the jabs aren’t perfect at preventing infection, they significantly reduce the risk, which can make a big difference in avoiding an outbreak.’
Experts say high numbers of unboosted care staff is worrying given that many older patients are also not fully protected.
Government figures released this week show that less than two-thirds of over-75s have had their booster. And just 49 per cent of over-50s have taken up the offer. Experts say it is crucial that those eligible have their booster when invited.
‘We could see a peak in infections similar to last year,’ says Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia.
‘But as long as people are fully boosted than they will be well protected when this happens.’
Leading charities called on care home workers to take up the offer of a booster to protect their residents.
‘We understand that some people will feel they’ve had enough of jabs and that as the pandemic is behind us they’re no longer required,’ says Caroline Abrahams of Age UK .
‘However, whether Covid 19 resurges as the weather chills or not, this is set to be an extremely challenging winter for care homes because of staff shortages and cost pressures.
‘Against this difficult context it’s more important than ever that care home residents and staff stay fit and well, and vaccination can really help.’
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