Published: 12:33, 16 June 2021
| Updated: 20:25, 16 June 2021
The news care home workers will be required to have mandatory coronavirus vaccinations has been welcomed by care experts and residents in the county.
With the government set to to announce care home workers will need the jabto continue to work with the elderly and vulnerable, we spoke to various people in the care sector and others in Kent to see how they reacted to the move.
Care home manager in Maidstone welcomes government plans to make coronavirus jabs compulsory
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is known to be in favour of the initiative, while England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, has said doctors and care workers have a “professional responsibility” to protect their patients.
Ministers will announce the move in the next few days, KentOnlineunderstands, after a consultation was carried out into using staff vaccinations in England to protect the most vulnerable from Covid-19.
Consultations will also begin on whether other health and care workers should also get the jabs.
It comes after concerns that some parts of the country have particularly low uptake of vaccines for care home staff.
Recent figures show in Kent, 11,904 care home staff, or 84.5% have had one dose of the vaccine, and in Medway, 1,314 or 80.7% of workers have received their first jab.
Overall NHS figures to June 6 show that 84% of staff in older adult care homes in England have had one dose of vaccine, and almost 69% have had both jabs.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic and have already saved thousands of lives - with millions of health and care staff vaccinated."
And care home managers and even residents living in them across Kent seem to agree the initiative is a good idea.
Larry Berkowitz, managing director of St Brelades and The Cumberland care homes in Herne Bay, said: "I'm very in favour of it because it's just reducing the risk. It's the responsible choice.
"You can't keep locking doors and restricting people's living.
"Unfortunately, the vulnerable have no choice in who looks after them and they are a captive environment.
"It may alienate people, but I think it's just a moral obligation to ensure their safety. Once it becomes mandatory, I don't think anyone will refuse the vaccine.
"Only a handful have refused. We have 110 staff, and 100 have taken it so far. We have four or five who have refused it for medical reasons and five refusing."
Dick Barton, 96-year-old resident of Canterbury care home Chaucer House, said: "In the long run, it is a good thing - it's like forcing a motorcyclist to wear a crash helmet.
"It won't make me feel any safer because the place (Chaucer House) is free of virus and the carers are all sensible and wear masks all the time.
"In the long run, it is a good thing - it's like forcing a motorcyclist to wear a crash helmet..."
"In other care homes, I suppose people will feel safer."
Vitality Home Health cares for around 80 people in their own homes across Gravesend, Dartford, Sevenoaks and the surrounding villages.
Its operations director Debbie Moulton says the potential announcement did not come as a shock but raises some concerns.
She said: "To be honest, we aren’t surprised at this potential announcement, we understand the concerns and I have to say the vast majority of our staff have been vaccinated.
"The odd one or two are exempt due to health problems."
One-to-one meetings have been held with any workers who are concerned and this has helped alleviate concerns, she added.
But as an advocate for the care industry, Debbie expressed her worries for potential recruitment "barriers", not just in home care, but across the care sector as a whole.
She added: "Recruiting staff can be very difficult and the demands for homecare are growing day-by-day.
"To be able to support the vulnerable people or people who have just left hospital, coupled with people who choose to remain in their own homes is challenging enough ordinarily, but now with the potential of insisting on vaccination could lead to another barrier for us in the recruitment arena.
"So saying that, we do believe as many people as possible should get the jab to keep themselves, their neighbours and colleagues safe."
"Recruiting staff can be very difficult and the demands for homecare are growing day-by-day..."
And the manager of one care home concedes she is worried she will lose staff if they are told to get vaccinated in order to keep their job.
Karen Burrows, manager at Loose Court in Rushmead Drive, Maidstone, says 10 of her 35 staff don’t want to have the Covid-19 vaccine at present.
“I’ve had a couple of my staff say to me that they would have to leave because they are adamant they won't get it,” the 56-year-old said.
“I believe that the government is thinking about making it mandatory for October.
“It is a hard one.
“If you look at it ethnicity, is it right for someone to say you cannot do this job if you don’t get vaccinated?
“But on the other side of that, we are also looking after the most vulnerable group.”
Mrs Burrows who runs the care home which looks after people with dementia has, however, received both of her jabs.
She added: “Why would I not protect myself?
“It is not going to stop you from getting the virus but, like with the flu vaccine, you are not going to get it as badly.”
“Why would I not protect myself..?"
While the amount of people getting coronavirus is dropping, Mrs Burrows says she wanted to protect herself in order to stop herself from being one of the unlucky ones.
Another care home group, Barchester, which has seven homes across the county, had already introduced Covid vaccination measures for their staff in March and say 99% of them are willing to have the vaccine.
The company runs seven homes in Kent - Ashminster House in Ashford, Emily Jackson House in Sevenoaks, Falcon Place and Newington Court in Sittingbourne, Friston House and Winchester House in Rochester and Sutton Valence Care Home, near Maidstone.
They also say staff who are exempt have been working with enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE).
A spokesman said: “The latest news from the government consultation is significant for the care sector, as we must protect the most vulnerable sector of society.
“We have already taken the decision that staff working in a Barchester care home or hospital must be vaccinated and we have carried out extensive engagement programmes with staff, as well as one-to-one support to encourage this.
“As a result, we are seeing strong uptake and positive engagement with Covid-19 vaccination.
“We are delighted that 99% of staff are willing to have the vaccine. Those staff with acceptable exemptions, and exempted staff, will operate with enhanced PPE.”
“Our staff take the duty of care for our vulnerable residents very seriously and understand the importance of this."
And many commented on KentOnline's facebook page saying they agreed with the move.
“Our staff take the duty of care for our vulnerable residents very seriously and understand the importance of this..."
Kat Conroy said: "As a nurse you have to have your hep b, and TB vaccines with all other vaccines up to date so why should care workers be different.
"I believe there should be leeway for those who can not on medical grounds, otherwise you need to keep yourself and your clients as safe as you can."
Brian Male agreed, he said: "Yes It should be a condition of the job. It is not fair that someone can bring the virus to the vulnerable.
"It should not be the only job that it applies to, vulnerable children fall into the same category."
And Sian Elliott also thinks it should mandatory, she said: "When you willingly work in a profession where it is your sole responsibility to care and protect others then yes you should."
However, not everyone agreed, Samantha Edgar doesn't think care workers should be made to get the jab.
She said: "No, no one should be made to have it. Using coercion and force is against the human rights act.
"As it’s still an experimental jab at the moment it cannot be made mandatory."
"It would make sense. However there is a severe shortage of health and social care workers..."
But Keith Nevols says it makes sense, but does have some reservations about staffing levels if it does become mandatory.
He said: "It would make sense. However there is a severe shortage of health and social care workers. We all forget that the health service and care services were in crisis before this pandemic began.
"Reducing staff further would add to the burdens of the existing staff, as well as the devastating effects there might be on the care recipients.
"If there were plenty of replacements, then there would be a case for insisting on protections.
"However, on balance, unjabbed health and care staff are better than having no staff at all."
And in a poll on Instgram, readers were asked; Do you think care home workers should be made to have the vaccine? A total of 78% of people who took it said yes, and 23% said no.