The UK government is ready to reject the controversial demand that all NHS staff in England be double vaccinated against Covid-19 by early April.
Ministers will meet later today to make a final decision, but a government official said Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Minister Sajid Javid said they were “thinking about politics”.
The insider added that the obligation for NHS employees to be vaccinated twice was conceived when the Delta option was the dominant strain, but the emergence of the softer, albeit highly transmissible, Omicron option “changed what we are dealing with”.
A total of 77,591 NHS staff in England were unvaccinated as of 23 January, increasing the possibility that around 5% of the workforce may have to be made redundant or reassigned at a time when the health service is facing severe staff shortages.
The impact of the vaccine mandate will be even greater in London, with 8.7% of NHS staff in the capital still not receiving a single dose, according to the latest figures.
The deadline for the full vaccination of staff was set on April 1, as a discount for health leaders who were worried about the massive loss of staff during the extremely busy winter period.
However, this week is the last in which staff had to receive their first shot to fit in two doses before the target date.
In response to reports of an obvious turnaround in government policy, first revealed by Telegraph, Patricia Marquis, director of the Royal College of Nursing in England, described it as “long overdue. . . It has never been in the interests of patient safety to threaten tens of thousands with dismissal in the midst of a staffing crisis.
The Marquis added: “We will continue to support the government and employers to justify vaccination.
Simon Clark, chief secretary of the Treasury, told the BBC on Monday that the broader background to the decision was that “philosophically we have always tried to balance maximum public health interventions against Covid with minimum interventions that violate people’s freedoms. . . and that’s really hard to achieve. ”
Every government in the world is struggling with the same issue, he suggested, adding: “The main message is that vaccination really works. . . and people need to be vaccinated. “
The mood swings, which could be confirmed later today, are likely to anger the nursing home sector, where staff have had to be fully vaccinated since November, leading to a loss of staff in an area already severely understaffed. .
Before the mandatory vaccination policy was imposed, the impact assessments of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare suggested that as a result, 40,000 people could lose their jobs.
Asked whether the rules would be changed for nursing homes, Clark said the broad logic remains, “that if you work with vulnerable people, the oldest in society, then it is very preferable to be vaccinated, because, of course, you pose less of a risk to them and, of course, less of a risk to the sustainability of the healthcare system of which you are a part. ‘ None of that, he said, has changed.
He added: “But in terms of where Omicron has reduced the risk enough to allow us to change policy, it is a decision for the health secretary and his colleagues.