Health and social care workers in England, including those working in community pharmacy, will no longer have to have a Covid shot or jab as a condition of employment from later this month, the government said on Tuesday (March 1).
The government had announced on January 31 that it intended to revoke the regulations that made vaccination compulsory, subject to the results of a public consultation.
The decision was taken because the Omicron strain of the virus was less severe than the Delta variant, and due to high rates of vaccination of people in the UK.
Health secretary Sajid Javid told parliament in a written statement that more than 90,000 health and social care workers and members of the public responded to the consultation.
“The vast majority of the feedback received supported revocation, with 90 per cent of respondents agreeing that the requirement for Covid-19 vaccination as a condition of deployment in health and social care settings should be revoked,” he added.
As a result, Javid said the requirement will be lifted on March 15, although he cautioned that frontline staff still had a “professional responsibility” to get jabbed.
The move has the backing of professional health regulators, he added.
The UK has been one of the hardest hit countries in the world by the coronavirus pandemic, registering more than 161,000 deaths within 28 days of a positive test since 2020.
Case numbers are still high: the latest seven-day rolling average is nearly 232,000 positive tests per day.
But 91.5 per cent of people aged 12 and older have had at least one jab; 85.2 per cent have had two; and more than two-thirds (66.5 per cent) have had a third “booster” jab.
Vaccination rates are higher among the workforce of the NHS) and social care staff working in places such as care homes.
Javid said vaccination, as well as new anti-virals coming on stream, remain the best line of defence to fight the spread of coronavirus.
The government lifted most coronavirus restrictions last month, assessing the time was right to end government curbs on public freedoms and move to personal responsibility.
The three other UK nations, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which have responsibility for healthcare policy, are also lifting their restrictions.