London. The British Medical Association supports “there is currently no general vaccination requirement for doctors and medical nurses” in the UK National Health Service (NHS). On the island, discussions in Germany and other European countries are watched with great interest and some nervousness.
This week, the UK House of Commons approved mandatory vaccinations for staff in retirement and nursing homes in England. This was discussed controversially for the first weeks and remained highly controversial even in the government till the very end. Boris Johnson’s government argues that around 30,000 more patients died in English retirement and nursing homes than in previous years as a result of COVID-19 infections during the pandemic. Therefore, compulsory vaccination is “a consistent and logical step” to better protect patients.
Vaccination mandatory from October
However, several members of the lower house voted against the plans. There were both ethical and other concerns. Only because the Johnson administration has a huge parliamentary majority can the plans be approved. The vaccination requirement comes into force from October. Domestic workers who refuse vaccination or who cannot prove they are not contagious are no longer allowed to work with residents of the household.
Vaccination is mandatory only in England. The rest of the UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland governments, which themselves are responsible for health policy, have no such plans.
“The need for general immunizations for doctors, nurses and other NHS workers is a very complex and difficult question,” said the president of the UK’s largest and most influential medical association (BMA), Dr. Chand Nagpaul in London. “Of course, doctors want the COVID mass vaccination program to be successful.”
Doctors are very willing to vaccinate
Dr Nagpaul pointed out that doctors in England are “extremely inclined to vaccinate”. “Where there are still gaps in vaccination protection, we must understand why these gaps exist before discussing compulsory vaccination.”
The BMA also pointed out that there are already parts of the NHS in which only vaccinated doctors and nurses are allowed to work, including those on intensive care medicine. However, vaccination rates vary widely between doctors and medical nurses in the UK. It is highest in the north-west of England at over 90 percent. In contrast, according to the BMA, it is significantly lower in London (“about 75 percent depending on how you count”).
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