Care workers able to opt-out of Covid vaccine by saying they are medically exempt

Care home resident holding hand with her daughter. Credit: PA

On the eve of the deadline for carers to get their first jab, the Department of Health has issued guidance that carers can self-certify that they have a medical exemption which gets them out of it. Exemptions include: terminal illness, a learning difficulty, autism or allergy to vaccine.

The exemptions will be temporary, but essentially a carer can now self-declare that they shouldn’t have to have the jab.

How on earth care homes will verify that claim is unclear. Exemptions will only last until an “NHS Covid Pass system” is launched - date TBC.

DHSC letter on temporary medical exemptions care home staff can use to opt-out of Covid vaccinations. Credit: ITV News

On the one hand, this may reduce pressure on the care home staffing crisis- as presumably more carers will be able to get themselves out of a jab and not have to leave before the November 11 double vax deadline.

This applies to pregnant carers too.

In early September, ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand reported on the carers who were having to put on a brave face despite facing the worst staffing crisis ever

On the other hand, this will encompass a relatively limited group of care staff (if everyone is truthful in their self-certification) and may serve to increase complexity for care homes who presumably have to try and verify that staff are indeed exempt for the reasons they give.The care sector suspects this is basically an attempt by the government to buy time.

The DHSC is aware of the acute staffing crisis in the sector and has provided a three month reprieve, knowing compulsory vaccinations would exacerbate the situation.All carers now need to do to exempt themselves from a vaccine is to sign this form.

Carers just need to sign this form to exempt themselves from a Covid vaccine. Credit: ITV News

Providing false information "may result in disciplinary action".

But it is not yet clear how anyone is really going to check.

Covid-19 vaccines being prepared for Health and social care workers at the Life Science Centre International Centre for Life in Newcastle. Credit: PA

This is only a temporary exemption for a minimum of 12 weeks until a new system comes in.

In reaction to the government's latest guidance, the GMB union said: “We warned [compulsory vaccination] could cause a mass exodus in a sector already facing a 170,000 staffing black hole. Now, at the eleventh hour, they’ve fudged it. It’s cowardly, incompetent and inhumane.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Over 90% of care home staff have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine ahead of the 11 November deadline and we encourage even more staff to get vaccinated to protect their colleagues and those they care for.” “Temporarily, those who meet the criteria for a medical exemption will be able to self-certify until we introduce a new system. This will ensure those with medical exemptions can continue working in care homes.”

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