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Informed choice better than compulsory vaccination for healthcare workers

We're concerned about the Government’s decision to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all patient-facing health and care workers in England from April 2022.

Vaccination is a key pillar in infection control and disease prevention. We actively and strongly encourage all pharmacists to take advantage of the COVID-19 vaccination programme and to get vaccinated unless there is a medical reason not to do so. This is best practice and part of pharmacists’ professional responsibility to make the care of the patient their first concern and act in their best interests. Our response to the Government’s recent consultation and our position statement on mandatory vaccination are clear that informed and educated choices about health interventions are more beneficial long-term than enforcing them.

Chair of RPS in England Thorrun Govind said: “We believe that informed consent is preferable to mandatory vaccination for health and care workers.

“Other vaccinations that healthcare staff are required to have are not mandated in law, but part of occupational health or health and safety requirements. We believe that COVID-19 vaccination should be treated in the same way and offered as part of working for the NHS, with supportive engagement and education on why this is important. The approach taken to date means that over 92% of NHS staff have now received their first Covid vaccine, and 90% have received their second vaccine.

“The ethical implications of this regulation will need consideration, such as the rights of individuals to decide and consent as to what treatment they have. It also has implications for those delivering the vaccinations and puts them in a difficult position, as consent is a fundamental principle of good healthcare and professional practice.

“It’s positive to hear an equality impact assessment of this policy will now be carried out. We are concerned that this policy will remove people from frontline care in a system that is under pressure and could affect patient care. It may also cause an increase in inequalities across the workforce as those living and working in areas of deprivation are the least likely to be vaccinated, so the provision of care in these areas will be reduced accordingly.

“Compulsory vaccination could have other unintended consequences such as a negative effect on the mental health of NHS teams at a time when many health and care professionals are already experiencing difficulties as a result of workplace stress.”

Read our response to the consultation 

Read our position statement on Covid-19 vaccination for pharmacists.

Read more RPS news.

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