No front-line hospital staff have refused vaccines in Ipswich and Colchester
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
No front-line staff at Ipswich or Colchester hospitals have refused to have a Covid vaccine - unless they are exempt for medical reasons.
The East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust revealed that all members at the two sites had been happy to be jabbed after Health and Social Care minister Helen Whately warned that those who refused to be vaccinated could be moved to non-frontline jobs.
A spokeswoman for the Trust said the minister's statement should not affect them: "We do not have any front line staff at ESNEFT who have refused to be jabbed for non-medical reasons."
Ms Whately said there were people who could not have the Covid-19 vaccine for medical reasons but those who decline the jab could lose their frontline jobs.
She said: "You can look at whether there are alternative ways somebody could be deployed, for instance, in a role that doesn't involve frontline work, or doesn't involve being physically in the same setting as the patient, whether it's, for instance, working on 111, something like that.
"So we could look at alternative roles for individuals, these are exactly the sorts of things that we can investigate."
The Government has launched a six-week consultation on making vaccination a condition of deployment for frontline workers in health and care settings.
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It means staff could be required to have both Covid and flu vaccines to protect patients from infection, serious illness or death.
A spokesman for the West Suffolk Hospital said: "We had a great response from staff when we launched our staff vaccination programme back in January, and gave Covid-19 jabs to more than 16,000 local health and social care staff.
"We will need to wait and see the outcome of the government's consultation, but we would encourage everyone - wherever they work - to get the Covid-19 vaccination as soon as possible and, where they are eligible, to get the flu vaccination when offered by the NHS over the coming months."
Ms Whately also suggested that workers who refuse to get the coronavirus vaccine should not work in social care.
"The reality is that one of the best ways we can protect people living in care homes is through making sure that staff are vaccinated," she said.
However Prema Fairburn-Dorai, chair of the Suffolk Association of Independent Care Providers, said Ms Whatley's comments showed her to be out of touch with reality.
She said: "In a care home everyone mixes together. Offices come off the same corridor that residents use. People in the kitchens or laundry bring food or bedclothes to the residents - it's not practical to separate them.
"This kind of comment shows they don't know what they're talking about. It makes us rather despondent really."
Health workers' union UNISON fears compulsion could drive many employees away.
A spokeswoman said: "Vaccination levels are extremely high among health workers. It makes no sense to risk worsening staff shortages with the pandemic far from over and a treatment backlog that’ll take years to shift.”