Published by BBC NEWS - 29th January 2022

Chloe

Image source, Chloe

Get jabbed, or risk losing your job.

That’s the dilemma facing thousands of unvaccinated NHS staff.

All healthcare workers in England must have a first Covid jab by 3 February and be fully vaccinated by 1 April.

But some have told BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat they are hoping for a third option: finding work across the borders, where vaccination is not compulsory.

NHS staff being vaccinated

Image source, Getty Images

Chloe, a 25-year-old dental therapist in Plymouth, says she doesn’t want the vaccine and is looking into working in Wales.

“It’ll probably be a case of finding a shared house or living with a friend in Cardiff,” she says.

“Probably only being able to work two or three days a week then commuting.

“That will obviously put a strain on my relationship [with my partner] because we’ll be living separately, and it’s just a real hassle.”

Chloe doesn’t think she should have to choose between her work and the vaccine, especially since she has spent years training for the job.

“I think it’s disgusting they’re doing this,” she says.

“They’re taking away our human rights.

“I don’t think it’s very fair that just across the border in Wales – a mile long bridge – the laws are going to be completely different.”

So how will the rules differ across the UK?

In England, it is set to become mandatory from 1 April for staff who have face-to-face contact with patients to have had two Covid vaccine doses, unless they have a medical exemption.

The Department of Health says this will help to protect patients.

Protesters

Image source, Reuters

However, in Scotland and Wales there are no plans to make jabs compulsory for NHS workers, while there will be a public consultation on the issue in Northern Ireland.

The vast majority of NHS staff in England are vaccinated, but it’s thought around 70,000 to 80,000 are not.

This adds up to 10% of workers at some hospitals or GP surgeries, according to the Royal College of GPs, which has called for the deadline to be delayed to prevent staff shortages.

Care providers in Wales have suggested they could employ unvaccinated workers who’ve left NHS jobs in England due to its mandatory vaccination policy, after Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford said he “wouldn’t rule it out”.

The Scottish Government says NHS recruitment is “undertaken according to open and fair processes”, and that vaccination is a personal choice.

Chloe

Image source, Chloe

‘I’m not an anti-vaxxer’

Chloe’s concerns are shared by Maria, who’s been a midwife in London for ten years and is not vaccinated against Covid.

“As things stand, I’m likely to lose my job on 1 April,” she says.

“We have been told they will try to redeploy us. However, I don’t see how many non-patient-facing roles they’re going to find for the many midwives that have chosen not to have the vaccine.”

“My preferred option at the moment is moving to the border – hoping to work in Wales as a midwife, and live in England.”

Maria insists she is “not an anti-vaxxer in any way”.

She says she volunteered for the vaccine trials, has had many previous vaccines, and has even recommended that her parents have the Covid vaccine.

However she is “strongly opposed” to compulsory jabs, because she says it “violates the principles of bodily integrity and informed consent – central to the care I give to women”.

Maria says she decided not to get the Covid jab after considering “the risk of Covid to me, versus the risk of the vaccine”, and because she doesn’t believe vaccination stops transmission to patients.

Studies show the risks of infection with Covid are much greater than the risks of vaccines, which are very good at protecting against becoming severely ill.

The protection they give against catching it and passing it on does wane more quickly, but doctors and scientists say it is not the case that vaccines don’t protect others at all.

‘A sacrifice I’m willing to make’

Maria says she has recently contemplated changing her mind as the deadline approaches though.

“The last few weeks have been so tough, I have actually thought about getting the vaccine just to protect my mental health,” she says.

However she still feels like not having it is “the right decision” for her so she has started looking for jobs in Wales but has only found six suitable vacancies advertised across the whole country so isn’t optimistic about finding work there immediately.

“It [moving home] is definitely a sacrifice I’d be willing to make. Midwifery is my vocation – it’s the reason I left my family and my home country.”

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