Care managers have to make it a priority that staff are vaccinated

Prime Minister Boris Johnson watches as Jennifer Dumasi is injected with the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covi

Prime Minister Boris Johnson watches as nurse Jennifer Dumasi is vaccinated during a visit to the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust - Credit: PA

One of the few happy events of these grim months of pandemic lockdown was the visit of the local community nursing team bringing the Oxford Astra Zeneca Covid vaccination to the supported accommodation that our son with autism and severe learning disabilities shares with other young men.

We had been concerned at the fact that, though people with Down Syndrome have been given high priority, others with learning disabilities – whose risk of dying from Covid are up to six times the rest of the population – have not.

It was a great relief that our son was offered his first jab at an early stage of the roll out of the NHS vaccination programme.

Mary Langan. Picture: Luke Dixon

Mary Langan says it should be a condition of employment that care staff have the Covid vaccine - Credit: Luke Patrick Dixon Photography

Thanks to some skilful distraction, our son was successfully vaccinated.

Some of his housemates, however, displayed a high level of "vaccine hesitancy" and could not be persuaded to have theirs.

It also seems that some of the support workers have so far not come forward for vaccination.

At a time when Covid infections remain at a high level in the community, it is a worry that vulnerable individuals remain at significant risk of this potentially dangerous virus.

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We have three family members who contracted Covid (separately) from care workers and last week we lost my mother’s beloved sister to the infection.

The relatively low level of vaccine uptake among health and social care workers has become the focus of national concern.

Indeed this has been an issue for some years in relation to the annual flu vaccine which is still not taken up by around one third of staff.

The fact that a high proportion of fatal Covid-19 infections have been acquired in hospitals and residential care homes has led to proposals that the new vaccinations should be mandatory for all staff members.

Compulsory Covid vaccinations may be a step too far.

Haringey Health Service and the Community Protect project are doing commendable local work in promoting vaccination among hesitant groups.

Care managers have to make it a priority that staff are vaccinated. They could make it clear that getting vaccinated is a condition of employment. They need to enforce a rigorous testing regime for workers. Frail and vulnerable people have a right to be protected from sickness and death.

  • Mary Langan is chair of the Severe and Complex Autism and Learning Disabilities Group (SCALD)