I’d feel the stirrings of rebellion if I was told to be jabbed or lose my job

What if you were told you’d lose your job if you were not double vaccinated against Covid – how would you react?

I have to admit, I’d feel the stirrings of rebellion. I’m not someone who relishes being coerced.

So when I hear Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s words along the lines of “a jab or your job”, I have some sympathy for the unvaccinated care workers to whom it was directed.

To jab or not to jab, to mandate or not to mandate?

It’s a question that’s taxing doctors on the pages of the BMJ.

Yet both the yes (Professor Michael Parker, Oxford University) and no (Helen Bedford and colleagues UCL, London and Stirling Universities) camps seem to agree on the basic responsibilities of all carers – duty of care, to protect patients.

In other words, health and social care workers do have a duty of care to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

In July, the House of Commons approved the requirement for staff working in care homes in England to have two doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

Italy, France and Greece had already made ­vaccinations mandatory for healthcare workers.

Patient safety is ultimately the responsibility of ­hospitals and care homes so they have a duty to employ only workers whose presence wouldn’t place patients at unnecessary risk.

So it could be argued that frontline jobs shouldn’t be offered to people unwilling to be vaccinated against high-risk infections.

Healthcare staff, too, have ­responsibilities. Shouldn’t they change the way they do things in the cause of patient safety?

Opponents of mandatory ­vaccination consider it “a blunt ­instrument to tackle a complex issue”, and say it’s unlikely to achieve high vaccine uptake.

It also raises ethical issues about freedom of choice and could be counterproductive.

In a recent survey nearly half (47%) of care home workers did not support mandatory vaccination.

There are also reports of staff ­threatening to leave rather than be forced to be vaccinated – although this doesn’t seem to have been borne out in Australia where flu vaccine is mandated for some health and social care staff.

Considering the low risk from ­vaccination, health workers whose unvaccinated status poses a risk to patients do have an obligation to accept vaccination.

They have what is sometimes referred to as a “duty of easy rescue”, especially as the impact on patient safety is high and risk of adverse effects is low.

So is there a situation where it becomes mandatory for all remaining frontline staff to be vaccinated?

At this impasse, employers could move unvaccinated staff to other roles as quickly as possible.