400 care workers in Suffolk yet to have single Covid jab
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A small proportion of carers in Suffolk - mostly pregnant women or those "politically opposed" - are choosing to leave their jobs instead of having mandatory Covid-19 jabs, industry chiefs have revealed.
NHS England data published Thursday reveals that 862 people are yet to be fully vaccinated, equating to one in 10 (10.3%) of care workers across Suffolk.
Around half of those - 431 people or 5.2% of the workforce - have not received their first dose.
It means the unvaccinated group will miss the Government-imposed deadline of November 11, when jabs become mandatory for social care workers in England.
Nationally, 33,849 out of 465,293 eligible staff (7%), including agency workers, at older adult care homes had not received a first dose by September 19.
Suffolk ranks at 116 of 152 English authorities for areas with the highest percentage of staff yet to have their first dose.
Meanwhile, Norfolk comes in at 126, Cambridgeshire is at 108, and Essex at 66 - right on the national average, with 7.3% of carers yet to receive their first jab.
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Prema Fairburn-Dorai, of Suffolk’s Association of Independent Care Providers, said most of the people declining jabs are either pregnant or trying to start a family.
“We are trying to give these carers as much information as possible, through webinars and one-to-one chats,” she said.
“But some are adamant, you cannot change their minds. They are happy to leave care, and go and find other jobs.
“It is already having a huge impact on the industry.”
Ms Fairburn-Dorai said a minority of workers are not having the jab “because it’s their belief”, adding that she herself feels the Government should make them statutory for everyone.
“They feel that it’s all really political and they’re not going to be dancing to that tune.
“Carers are so precious at the moment, we want them, we need them, but we’ve done everything we can possibly do."
She added: “We’re trying to fill the gaps, using volunteers, students, etc.
“Because the harsh reality is: people are not going to get care if you don’t have enough staff working.”
The industry chief believes care workers feel singled out as vaccines are not yet mandatory for everyone.
“I think care workers think they are being singled out unfairly. In other industries, like hospitality in particular, vulnerable people access those places too.”
In its impact statement in July, the Government predicted 7% of care home workers, which is around 40,000 staff out of 570,000 working in care homes in England, would refuse to have the vaccine.
A 16-week 'grace period' to begin preparations began on July 22.
Previously, Cephas Care chief David Finch warned care homes may be forced to close if staff have to be vaccinated to keep their jobs.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Our message is clear: vaccines save lives and it is our responsibility to do everything we can to reduce the risk for vulnerable people in care homes.”