Chris Jenkinson, UNISON Regional Secretary for East Midlands

Government imposed mandatory vaccines for public service workers are “fundamentally wrong” says a top East Midlands union boss.

Nearly 130,000 NHS and domiciliary care staff working in registered settings had not had a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine as of January 23, according to figures published last week by NHS England.

But Chris Jenkinson, East Midlands regional secretary for UNISON, claims “high level of vacancies” will always be more of a threat than a staff member catching covid.

Mr Jenkinson’s comments were made just days before health secretary, Sajid Javid, informed MPs on Monday evening of plans for a U-turn on mandatory vaccines.

He said: “We support and encourage everyone to get vaccinated, but there are those who for varied reasons are not yet confident.

“Mandating workers is not the right way to go, firstly it doesn’t achieve the objective, it actually encourages them not to.

“Secondly, there is something fundamentally wrong with a state to take powers on itself and impose requirements on people and then threaten their job, livelihood and the consequences for their family.”

“Education and support” is needed to encourage those who do not yet trust the science to get vaccinated, said Mr Jenkinson.

He added: “You need education, support, give them their space, allow them to come to terms with the science, we need to build that message up in their communities.

“There will be much greater risk of harm to patients with the high level of vacancies than that which will ever be presented with a workforce member having covid and passing it on.”

Mr Jenkinson expressed further fears that those in a “high skilled area of workforce” would be looked after in comparison to cleaners who will see their jobs lost.

“When it’s implemented, it won’t be done fairly, it applies across the whole social care workforce. But there will be a difference of outcome.

“If you are a consultant surgeon or a senior clinician in a high skilled area of workforce – you’ll be taken off the frontline and found another job.

“If you’re a health care assistant, cleaner, porter, the same conditions won’t apply to you – your job will be gone.”

Sajid Javid also plans to remove immunisation as a condition of working in care homes, an approach which has already seen an estimated 40,000 lost from the sector.