Last week saw the deadline pass for staff to have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine as a condition of deployment in care homes in England.
The government projected that between 3% and 13% of this workforce would not have received two doses by 11 November (including those with medical exemptions). The latest data suggests that, as of 26 October, around 11% (just under 63,000 staff) had not received a second dose.
Looking at staff by their type of employment suggests there may be far higher rates of agency staff working in care homes who by then had not received a second dose (39%), compared to their directly employed counterparts (10%) in care homes. The rate among agency staff – who account for around one in 20 of the care home workforce – may be due to an inability to access paid time off or decent level of sick pay should they experience side effects from the vaccine, or from juggling shifts with other responsibilities.
There are some caveats given data limitations. For example, care homes are less likely to know the vaccination status of their agency staff, partly because agencies are not required to report that data. The increased proportion of staff having received a second dose could also be partly driven by unvaccinated staff leaving. The number of staff covered in the data fell by around 11,000 staff deployed in older adult care homes and by 4,000 in younger adult care homes between April and October this year, although the number of providers submitting data is not consistent over time. We also do not yet know how many staff are medically exempt.
With the recent announcement that all front-line health and social care staff will be required to follow suit in April, however, it is clear that policy-makers and providers will need to closely observe how the policy plays out in the care home sector and look to minimise the negative unintended consequences of compulsory vaccines.