All nursing homes in England have finally been vaccinated against Covid, almost four months after the jab’s rollout began, figures from the NHS show.
The last open house – closed for months due to an ongoing coronavirus outbreak – was visited by an NHS team of vaccinators last week.
Officials declined to name it, but the milestone means people in all 10,413 eligible care homes across the country have been given the first dose of a Covid vaccine that could save their lives.
At least 94 percent of them, some 273,685 people, have accepted the offer since the rollout began on December 8. Some may refuse, and people who have recently had Covid should not get the shot until they recover.
The Labor Party criticized the government for not fulfilling its pledge to vaccinate all over-80s in February, but Public Health England said there were “ a number of factors’ ‘that slowed medics’ ability to reach some homes.
While the rollout for nursing home residents has gone well, there are still concerns about low vaccination rates among staff and the government is now considering making their injections mandatory to protect older people.
Residents of nursing homes are among the people most at risk of dying if they contract the coronavirus, as they are usually elderly and have dementia or other serious health problems (photo: a woman is vaccinated in a nursing home in Scotland in December)
Data from the NHS shows that while the roll-out of the care home vaccine has gone well for residents, less than half of the workforce in some areas has been immunized – with admission worst in London – despite having jabs for them since December are available.
For the week ending March 21, all but one of the homes had a vaccination team offering injections to residents and staff, all of which are at the top of the government’s priority list.
Nearly all care homes had been reached by the NHS on Jan. 31, when the census was first published, when 10,321 of the 10,413 had been completed, leaving 92.
At the end of February, there were only five nursing homes that had not been reached, but it took another 14 days to complete the list.
Nursing home residents are among the people most at risk of dying if they contract the coronavirus because they are usually elderly and have dementia or other serious health conditions.
To date, more than 41,000 residents have died of Covid in England – equivalent to about one in seven of all residents now eligible for an injection.
But more than nine in 10 of the 300,000 on the patient list have now received at least one dose of the vaccine since its introduction last year, meaning most will be protected against severe Covid-19.
GOVERNMENT APPROACHING THE VACCINE RIGHT FOR CAREER
Care home workers could be forced to get a coronavirus vaccine or quit their jobs, according to a leaked document this week.
Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock are said to have pushed for the move amid alarm over the low intake of injections among nursing home staff.
Figures show that only about a quarter of care homes in London and about half in other parts of England have reached the ‘safe’ vaccination level for staff.
According to the Daily Telegraph, a paper was filed last week with the Covid-19 Operations Cabinet subcommittee to make injections mandatory for nursing home staff.
If the measures are approved, the 1.5 million social care workers in England could be legally obliged to get a coronavirus shot.
It is a significant departure from the government’s previous insistence that the shot should not be made mandatory.
It is also expected to provoke workforce anger, with the paper itself warning that the policy could lead to an exodus of staff and even a series of human rights cases.
The paper has been prepared by the Department of Health and Social Care and is entitled ‘Vaccination as a Condition for Commitment to Social Care and Adult Health’.
The most important section for aid workers reads: “The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State [for Health] have on several occasions discussed the progress being made in vaccinating social workers against Covid-19 and have agreed – in order to achieve a position that is much safer for care recipients – to introduce legislation to require vaccinations from the workforce . ‘
Labor said it was concerned that there are still significant numbers of older people not yet reached by the vaccine program.
Liz Kendall MP, Labour’s Shadow Social Care Minister, said: “ The government promised that all over-80s would be vaccinated by mid-February, and yet in some places up to one in four elderly is yet to receive their shot.
Many of these people will be vulnerable, living alone or housebound and very concerned about missing the vaccine.
“Ministers should establish a clear plan to increase uptake, working with health care providers, local authorities and families to ensure the easiest possible access for those who have yet to be vaccinated.”
NHS England and Public Health England declined to comment on the retirement home rollout.
PHE said there are a “number of factors” that could slow efforts to reach individual homes, with risk assessments needed to minimize the risk of the virus spreading.
NHS England explains in its reports that the list of care homes includes “a small number of eligible care homes that are currently undergoing an outbreak and cannot be visited by a vaccination team, as determined by the local government public health team.”
Nursing homes have been at the top of the vaccine priority list since it was drawn up by the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Vaccination) last year.
Statistics released by NHS England up to March 21 last week show that in some parts of London only 80 percent of residents of their care homes have been vaccinated.
The lowest area in the country was Hackney (80.2 percent), followed by Lewisham (84.3 percent), both of which are in the capital.
In about 13 other areas, less than 90 percent of the residents of their care homes have been vaccinated.
Getting vaccines to the homes started slowly because the Pfizer shot, which initially needed to be stored at -70 ° C and not easily transported, was the only one available until early January.
The fact that it came in large quantities of about 1,000 doses and had to be used soon after thawing meant it couldn’t be divided into small deliveries, so it was usually reserved for large urban vaccination centers.
The puncture approval from Oxford and AstraZeneca on January 4 meant that the rollout could be monumental accelerated as it can be stored at room temperature for a long time.
While the vaccination of nursing home residents has been largely successful, attempts to immunize the staff in the homes have not been successful.
Ministers are now considering legislating for nursing home staff to receive a Covid vaccine because admission rates are so low that they could put the elderly at risk.
Only 76.6 percent of nursing home workers have taken advantage of the vaccine offerings in England so far.
But the admission rate varies wildly across the country, with six areas handing out injections to less than 60 percent of their care home workers.
Only 404 of Lambeth in 898 eligible nursing home workers in London accepted the invitation for a vaccine – an admission rate of just 45 percent.
Four of the other five areas were also located in London: Wandsworth (55.8 percent), Camden (58.6 percent), Hackney (59.1 percent) and Redbridge (59.2 percent).
The hesitant vaccination has led the government to consider making injections compulsory for healthcare providers.
Pete Calveley, CEO of Barchester Healthcare which already has a controversial ‘no jab no job’ policy, said his staff have a ‘duty’ to get the Covid vaccine to protect their residents from Covid.
He said the human rights of people living in nursing homes are at stake and that staff should protect them.
The company was one of the first to announce that it would not be hiring new caregivers who have not been vaccinated and that all existing staff should be given a shot by the end of April.
Reluctance is believed to be high among healthcare workers as many of them come from low-income or less educated households, or from black or ethnic minorities. All of these groups are known to be more likely to refuse a vaccine.
Matt Hancock admitted Monday that mandatory vaccination was “something we’re looking at” and claimed that “many” nursing homes have backed the proposal.
He scolded caregivers who declined their injections and warned that they have “a duty of care not to pass the disease on” to vulnerable residents.
His comments came after a leaked document submitted to the Covid Operations Cabinet committee showed that Mr. Hancock and Boris Johnson had both agreed to mandatory injections for health personnel.
Mr. Hancock told LBC, “This one hasn’t been decided on yet, but it’s something we’re looking at.
“Because people who care for the elderly in care homes, who we know are most vulnerable to Covid, they have a duty of care not to transmit the disease, and that’s a reasonable question.”
He said that ‘many’ nursing homes had asked for this, adding, “A legal change is needed and, as you can see, I am open to it, but no final decision has been made yet.”