A care home worker who was fired because she refused to be vaccinated against Covid has posted an emotional video after her final shift — as up to 60,000 care home staff also face the sack from Thursday.
Louise Akester, 36, had her employment contract with the Alderson House facility in Hull terminated because of the Government’s requirement for all care workers to get double jabbed from November 11.
All care workers in adult care homes who do not have medical exemptions must have two doses of a coronavirus vaccine. But in the wider NHS, the controversial ‘no jab, no jab’ policy isn’t set to come into force until April next year.
Ms Akester has worked in the care sector for 14 years, but refused to be vaccinated regardless of No10’s new rule, and sobbed as she was forced to leave her job.
Speaking within minutes of finishing her last shift, Ms Akester said: ‘That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, saying goodbye to everybody, all the people I’ve cared for, for so long, the people I’ve worked with.
‘It’s been so emotional, this is so unfair. I just can’t believe what the bloody government is doing to us, I just don’t get it, I don’t understand.’
Ms Akester — who was on minimum wage but loved her job ‘with all my heart’ — said she was refusing to get the vaccine until ‘we know more about the potential long-term side effects’.
Figures suggest some 60,000 care home employees in England — roughly a tenth of the entire workforce — are still yet to turn up for two jabs, and half of these have not even had their first dose. They all face the axe by Thursday.
Industry bosses have warned up to 500 homes face being closed down because of the policy, which would leave them without ‘enough staff to operate safely’. There were already more than 100,000 vacancies across the social care sector in England before ministers confirmed the no jab, no job policy.
Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group, who has worked in the care home sector for 30 years, said: ‘If that happens, it begs the question of where thousands of residents would go, as they can’t go to hospitals and they can’t go to their own homes without care.’
Louise Akester, 36, pictured, was fired because of government requirements from November 11 that all care workers in adult care homes, who do not have medical exemptions, are double jabbed
Covid vaccines are set to be compulsory for social care workers from November 11. Pictured above is care home worker Louise Akester, 36, from Hull, who made an emotional video as she finished her final shift at Alderson House care home
NHS staff should be forced to have the jab BEFORE winter, says former Health Secretary Matt Hancock
NHS workers should be forced to get two doses of the Covid vaccine before winter, disgraced former Health Secretary Matt Hancock said today.
Mr Hancock — who quit in June after breaching his own social distancing rules by kissing a married colleague — said the move would act as another ‘tool to save lives’ during what is projected to be a harsh winter for the health service.
He also scorned NHS staff who are still not vaccinated and don’t have a valid medical reason, warning that it was their ‘moral duty’ and that they had ‘ignored all the scientific and clinical advice’.
Ministers have for weeks been considering whether to make Covid jabs compulsory within the health service after pushing through the requirement for care home workers in the summer.
But last week the Health Secretary Sajid Javid appeared to push back the plans until April after being warned by NHS bosses that introducing the policy now could leave hospitals understaffed at a crucial period.
There are also concerns about whether the move is even necessary, given that more than nine in 10 NHS staff are already vaccinated.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Hancock, who was Health Secretary for three years, warned ministers against delaying compulsory vaccinations for the sector into the new year.
He said: ‘Having looked at all the evidence, I am now convinced we must require vaccination for everyone who works not just in social care but the NHS — and get it in place as fast as possible… So as we prepare to a face a difficult winter, let’s use all the tools we have to save lives.
‘Imagine the cancer patient, already battling another deadly disease, being cared for by a nurse. Who can put their hand on their heart and say they’d be happy to tell that patient their nurse could have the vaccine, but has chosen against all scientific and clinical advice to ignore it.’ Mr Hancock said doctors and nurses had a ‘moral duty’ to get the Covid vaccine to protect their patients.
Although the care worker refused to get vaccinated, as part of her job requirements she still tested three times a week for Covid, wore PPE equipment and followed ‘all guidelines relating to infection control’.
Ms Akester says the situation is ‘unfair’ because care home residents and their visitors are not required to be vaccinated by the Government.
She said she hasn’t ruled out getting the vaccine in the future but does not wish to be vaccinated now.
The 36-year-old says she speaks to represent the 40,000 care home workers in England who are to lose their jobs by November 11.
Ms Akester, who worked at Alderson House for three years, last week told HullLive: ‘When I have to leave that building at the end of my final shift knowing that I can no longer return as an employee, all because apparently now I’m not good enough to protect them due to refusing the vaccines.
‘This choice should be my basic human right. I do not deserve to be punished for saying “no”.’
She added: ‘I genuinely love my job with all my heart, I only earn minimum wage so believe me it isn’t the money keeping me there.’
‘I’ve been swarmed by messages of support and thanks,’ Ms Akester said.
‘They’ve contacted from all over nationally, not just Hull. Some in the Hull area want to meet up in the future and compare notes on our experiences.
‘It’s nice to know I’m not alone, that there’s other people in my shoes. I wish we had something much nicer in common, but it is what it is.’
Meanwhile, former Health Secretary Matt Hancock argued today that NHS staff should be forced to have the jab before winter.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, he warned ministers against delaying compulsory jabs for frontline nurses and doctors.
The Government has not decided not to make two jabs compulsory for healthcare workers this winter, with the controversial rule not expected to be enforced until April. Officials are set to confirm the move within the coming days.
Mr Hancock, who was responsible for making vaccines mandatory for care home workers, wrote: ‘Having looked at all the evidence, I am now convinced we must require vaccination for everyone who works not just in social care but the NHS – and get it in place as fast as possible… So as we prepare to a face a difficult winter, let’s use all the tools we have to save lives.’
Ministers have been warned by NHS industry bodies and Labour frontbenchers that adopting the policy too soon, however, could result in a mass exodus of NHS staff ahead of the winter.
Mr Hancock added: ‘To me the logic is crystal clear.
‘Medicine is founded on science – and the science of the Covid vaccine is comprehensively proven.
‘Mandating the use of the best science isn’t controversial – it’s common sense.
‘There are some people who say this isn’t the way we do things in Britain.
‘But we already mandate vaccination against Hepatitis B for doctors.
‘The British historic precedents for compulsory vaccination go back to the 1850s.’
Mr Hancock’s call comes as official figures showed a fifth of NHS staff in England are still not fully vaccinated against Covid at trusts lagging furthest behind in the rollout.
NHS England statistics show there are still more than 1,000 workers at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust out of its 6,000-strong workforce that are yet to get two doses of the vaccine (79.5 per cent).
The above map shows the five areas where more than one in five care home employees are still yet to get two doses of the Covid vaccine
The above graph shows the proportion of staff working in care homes for the over-65s who have received their first and second doses of the vaccine. It reveals that there was no sharp surge in uptake when the jabs were made compulsory
Some 100,000 NHS workers are yet to get at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, figures show. The above graph shows the percentage that have got their first dose (blue line) and the percentage that have got both doses (orange line)
The above map shows the 20 hospital trusts with the lowest proportion of staff fully jabbed in England. The data is up to September 30, the latest available
Former Health Secretary has warned ministers against delaying mandatory jabs for nurses and doctors and urged them to make jabs mandatory for NHS staff before winter
At Barts Health NHS Trust in East London there are 4,000 out of 24,000 employees that are yet to be fully jabbed. It is unclear how many were medically-trained frontline staff who interact with patients, and how many were working in office-based roles.
However, nationally 89 per cent of NHS employees in England have had both doses of a Covid vaccine.
And figures showed more than 92 per cent of doctors, nurses and administrative staff have already got at least one dose of the vaccine. Uptake was highest in the South West and South East, but lowest in London.
Ministers have been mulling over plans to make it compulsory for all hospital staff to be double-jabbed this winter to give extra layers of protection heading into a tough period for the NHS. The flu jab may also be made compulsory.
But it is believed they have now kicked the can down the road after being warned by unions that this could lead to a wave of resignations when hospitals are likely to be under the most pressure from Covid and other respiratory diseases like flu.
The Government is instead reported to be planning the impose the requirement from April.
In care homes the ‘no jab, no job’ policy has done more harm than good, with figures suggesting some 60,000 employees are to be made redundant next week risking homes being short-staffed. Sources say the policy only had ‘a little’ impact on jab uptake.
Unions are already warning that plans to make Covid jabs compulsory in the social care sector from next week could ‘cripple’ the sector and force some homes to close.
Figures show some 60,000 employees are still not double-vaccinated, with homes in Manchester, Nottingham, Westminster and Birmingham having the lowest jab uptake.
Care sources have called for the deadline to be delayed, and said making the jabs compulsory has only had ‘a little’ impact on uptake anyway.