The Health Secretary has announced it is no longer “proportionate” to require vaccination for NHS staff and health care workers as a condition of deployment through statute.

Sajid Javid told MPs that two factors mean the Government can “revisit the balance of risks and opportunities” that guided the original decision last year.

He said: “Omicron’s increased infectiousness means that at the peak of the recent winter spike, one in 15 people had a Covid-19 infection, according to the ONS (Office for National Statistics). Around 24% of England’s population has had at least one positive Covid-19 test, and as of today in England, 84% of people over 12 have had a primary course of Covid-19 vaccines and 64% have been boosted, including over 90% of over-50s.

“The second factor is that the dominant variant, Omicron, is intrinsically less severe. When taken together with the first factor that we now have greater population protection, the evidence shows that the risk of presentation to emergency care or hospital admission with Omicron is approximately half of that for Delta. Given these dramatic changes, it is not only right but responsible to revisit the balance of risks and opportunities that guided our original decision last year.

“While vaccination remains our very best line of defence against Covid-19, I believe that it is no longer proportionate to require vaccination as a condition of deployment through statute.

“So I’m announcing that we will launch a consultation on ending vaccination as a condition of deployment in health and all social care sectors. Subject to the responses and the will of this House, the Government will revert the regulations.”

Health Secretary “makes no apology for” mandatory Covid vaccinations policy

St Helens Star: Health Secretarry Sajid Javid. Picture: PAHealth Secretarry Sajid Javid. Picture: PA

Defending the policy of initially introducing mandatory Covid vaccinations for NHS and social care workers, the Health Secretary said the Government “makes no apology for it”.

Mr Javid told MPs there was a need to consider the impact on the workforce in NHS and social care settings, “especially at a time where we already have a shortage of workers and near full employment across the economy”.

He added: “In December I argued, and this House overwhelmingly agreed, that the weight of clinical evidence in favour of vaccination as a condition of deployment outweighed the risks to the workforce.

“It was the right policy at the time, supported by the clinical evidence, and the Government makes no apology for it. It has also proven to be the right policy in retrospect, given the severity of Delta.”

Mr Javid said that since September there has been a “net increase of 127,000” people working across the NHS who have “done the right thing and got jabbed”, and a net increase of 32,000 people vaccinated in social care.

He went on: “Given that Delta has been replaced, it’s only right that our policy on vaccination as a condition of deployment is reviewed. So I asked for fresh advice including from the UK Health Security Agency and England’s chief medical officer.”