Just eight per cent of staff in UK care homes have had their autumn Covid booster shot.
The latest government data also showed that less than two-thirds of healthcare workers received an extra dose.
The figures show a sharp drop from the previous round of Covid stings – more than 84% of care home workers have received at least two Covid vaccines.
It comes as experts warn of a new wave of vaccine hesitancy among medical teams, with experienced doctors to be deployed to educate junior staff on vaccine safety.
Only one in eight nursing home staff have received their last Covid-19 vaccine, according to shocking new figures
Carers and nursing staff were the first Britons to be offered the autumn booster in early September. Since then, all over 50s and vulnerable people have been called
“My hospital has asked me to give a talk about why it’s so important for staff to have the booster to protect our patients,” said a senior doctor. “There are still healthcare workers who think vaccines are a conspiracy. But, most of the time, people are fed up with Covid and tired of getting vaccinated. In our hospital, less than half of the staff received their reminder.
Carers and nursing staff were the first Britons to be offered the autumn booster in early September. Since then, all over 50s and vulnerable people have been called. It comes weeks after experts warned of an impending ‘twin outbreak’, with high levels of Covid and flu expected this winter which could overwhelm health services.
As Covid cases have plummeted in recent weeks, experts say a resurgence is likely in the coming months.
A University College London study predicted a wave of Covid infections in January comparable to last Christmas’ record wave of Omicron.
Health chiefs have launched a new marketing campaign to encourage more Britons to get the hang of it amid disappointing turnout figures.
Less than half of those eligible have had their last shot, according to the latest figures. Experts say the latest wave of vaccine hesitancy among care home staff is a direct result of the government’s ‘No Jab, No Job’ policy – which has banned unvaccinated care staff from working with patients.
A University College London study predicted a wave of Covid infections in January comparable to last Christmas’ record wave of Omicron
More than 40,000 care home staff lost their jobs in England as a result of the policy introduced last November – before it was scrapped two months later.
But reports suggest tens of thousands of people did not return after the ruling was completed.
“Since the disastrous ‘No Jabs, No Jobs’ policy, Covid vaccines have become politicized in the care sector,” says Nadra Ahmed, of the National Care Association.
“Before politics, we were pretty good at getting workers to show up for the shot. Now that trust is broken and many are resisting getting another one.
“Staff numbers are already dangerously low. If a large part of the staff is on sick leave, the houses will not be able to operate,” she adds.
While the risk of care home workers becoming seriously ill with Covid without the booster is low – the average age of a care home worker is 45 – experts say not getting the extra hit will increase the risk of virus outbreaks in homes, as well as staff shortages.
“One of the reasons care home workers are being offered the shot is that we need to limit care home outbreaks as much as possible this winter,” says Imperial College immunologist Professor Peter Openshaw. from London.
“Even though the shots aren’t perfect for preventing infection, they significantly reduce the risk, which can make a big difference in avoiding an outbreak.”
Experts say the high number of unreinforced healthcare workers is worrying given that many elderly patients are also not fully protected.
Government figures released this week show less than two-thirds of over-75s have had their recalls. And only 49% of those over 50 accepted the offer. Experts say it’s crucial that eligible people have their reminder when invited.
“We could see a spike in infections similar to last year,” says Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia.
“But as long as people are fully stimulated, they will be well protected when it happens.”
Major charities have called on care home workers to accept the offer of a recall to protect their residents.
“We understand that some people will feel they are fed up with the shots and with the pandemic behind us they are no longer needed,” says Caroline Abrahams of Age UK.
“However, whether or not Covid 19 resurfaces when the weather turns cold, this winter is expected to be extremely difficult for care homes due to understaffing and cost pressures.
“In this difficult environment, it is more important than ever that care home residents and staff stay fit and healthy, and vaccination can really help.”