Legal, ethical and practical implications must be considered ahead of mandating vaccines, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA.

Location: England
Last reviewed: 27 October 2021

Responding to suggestions that Covid-19 vaccinations could be made mandatory for healthcare workers, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: 
“The BMA fully supports the Covid vaccination rollout and, given the effectiveness of the vaccine, it’s important that every NHS worker is vaccinated, other than those who can’t for medical reasons. There is, however, an important distinction between believing every healthcare worker should be vaccinated and advocating for mandatory vaccinations; this comes with its own legal, ethical and practical implications that must be considered. The threat to staff who refuse the vaccine of losing their jobs, is also of grave concern. 
“One of the BMA’s main concerns is the impact this decision may have on the workforce. Vaccination coverage among NHS workers is high – latest data shows that in several hospital trusts in England the number of staff who have had both vaccinations is in excess of 90%. However, even if a small number of staff were forced out of work because they are not vaccinated, this would have a big impact on a health service that’s already under immense pressure. With severe workforce shortages afflicting the NHS, and 93,000 unfilled vacancies, any reduction in healthcare workers could be devastating for patient services as we face a record backlog of care and winter pressures. The Government should explore options for those who are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons or may refuse, including, for example, remote working, possible redeployment, greater PPE protection and more regular testing.
“We would like to see the Government produce an impact assessment to give an indication of how much this policy may affect staffing levels. It would be irresponsible to move forward with this plan without doing this at the very least, and we would recommend delaying the policy until such time as a more complete understanding of its implications on workforce levels can be reached.”

Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.