Should COVID-19 vaccine be mandatory for nurses?

Nursing Standard’s Facebook debate reveals staff are divided on the issue

Nursing Standard’s Facebook debate reveals staff are divided on the issue

Picture: Tim George

Should a COVID-19 vaccine be mandatory for nurses? This proved a contentious subject on Nursing Standard’s social media page this weekend.

Nursing Standard’s Facebook page posed the question as the NHS prepares an extensive COVID-19 vaccination programme in the coming months, with health and care staff among the priority groups set to receive the vaccine.

In the online discussion, some nurses, while stating that they supported vaccines generally, said they were against the idea of a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for the profession.

Doubt about long-term effects of COVID-19 vaccine

One nurse highlighted her concerns about knowledge of the vaccines being developed.

‘We do not know the long-term effects of the vaccine, how it reacts with other conditions staff may have etc not enough is known about it,’ she wrote.

‘However, I am not against the vaccine per se.’

Let nurses decide whether to take vaccine, says one Facebook commenter

Another nurse argued why those working in health and care settings should have less rights than the public when it comes to refusing vaccination.

‘I believe most NHS [staff] will take it because of their knowledge,’ she wrote.

‘But don’t take that option from us. Many people will not be taking it – as is their choice. So why force others? Like we don't have human rights.’

Should COVID-19 be treated differently to other vaccinations?

Other nurses wrote that since some vaccines, such as the hepatitis B vaccine, are mandatory for healthcare workers, why should a COVID-19 vaccine be different?

One nurse noted: ‘Yes, unless they cannot take it for physiological problems. Other vaccinations are mandatory, why not this?’

Another person expressed concerns about staff saying they were not planning to receive the vaccine: ‘I’m baffled when I see a lot of the anti vaxx rhetoric coming from within.

‘I can understand the lay persons’ reaction to vaccine to an extent but there’s a risk that some healthcare workers are falling for misinformation and conspiracy.’

RCN position on vaccination

The RCN states that while it encourages members to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, it does not support mandatory vaccination.

The college said it would support members who decide not to have a vaccine.

Government says vaccination not mandatory

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said there is currently no mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in the UK, adding that it is everyone’s responsibility to seek NHS advice to make an informed choice.

The spokesperson added that COVID-19 vaccines will need to meet standards of safety, effectiveness and quality, and be approved by the medicines regulator, before being deployed.

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