Ministers were last night accused of undermining public confidence in Covid vaccines after scrapping the requirement for health and social care workers to be jabbed.
Sajid Javid performed an ’11th-hour’ U-turn amid warnings the mandate would lead to crippling staff shortages, with up to 80,000 NHS employees facing the sack.
The Health Secretary told MPs it was ‘no longer proportionate’ to require vaccination as a condition of employment under law because Omicron is ‘intrinsically less severe’ than Delta, which was the dominant strain at the time the measures were announced.
High vaccine uptake across the country also means there is ‘greater population protection’, he added.
However, health leaders warned that the move risks sending a message that vaccines are no longer important – potentially hitting uptake among the wider population.
The chief executives of the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers, Matthew Taylor and Chris Hopson, said NHS leaders were frustrated at the ’11th-hour’ policy change.
In a joint statement they said: ‘They recognise the reasons the Government has given for the changes, the risk to services and the different risk from Omicron compared to previous variants.
‘But there will be concern at what this means for wider messaging about the importance of vaccination for the population as a whole.’
It came as care home bosses told how they were ‘frustrated’ for staff who had already lost their jobs for refusing jabs.