Care workers’ vaccine slots are going unfilled

Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Kiwis

The latest number of care home deaths and outbreaks in Suffolk has been revealed (stock image) - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Kiwis

Fears are being raised over the slow uptake of life-saving coronavirus jabs among some social care staff, as charity chiefs reveal there is “vaccine hesitancy” in vulnerable groups. 

Adult social care bosses admitted in a weekly Covid update that some vaccine slots offered to frontline care workers in Suffolk are going unfilled, with chiefs urging workers to book in before other cohorts are called forward. 

Council chiefs say the general uptake among care workers in Suffolk has been good, but charity bosses representing BAME communities say in some cases between 5% and 10% of workers, particularly in home care, are refusing the jab. 

It comes as 55 care homes were confirmed as battling outbreaks on Wednesday, up from 53 last week. Figures out on Tuesday show the weekly death toll, which had been rising, fell from 39 to 32. 

Siobhan Kranjanasilp, of the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE), said scepticism of the jab in some BAME communities has prompted the charity to run a campaign with clinical commissioning groups aimed at boosting uptake in care homes. 

Revealing there is a “lot of vaccine hesitancy” in Suffolk’s BAME communities, she added: “This could have huge ramifications for the care industry, because it means insurance providers are beginning to question if they can insure if people haven’t had the vaccine. 

“People’s main concerns are how quickly the vaccine went through, uncertainty about side effects, how effective it will be. There are historical issues – they are very sceptical about taking advice from our medical and statutory organisations. That stems from years of prejudice against the groups." 

Siobhan Kranjanasilp, volunteering services officer, with Community Action Suffolk will be attending

Siobhan Kranjanasilp, ISCRE's BAME integration and partnerships coordinator - Credit: COMMUNITY ACTION SUFFOLK

It is hoped that ISCRE’s new scheme to dispel myths about the jab, which Ms Kranjanasilp hopes to roll out to care homes across Suffolk, will see each nationality’s opinions heard in a safe space, alongside a doctor and faith leader. 

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Since care home vaccination began in earnest in mid-January, NHS chiefs say almost all residents have had their jabs, with three remaining, outbreak-hit homes set to be revisited this week. 

As of last Thursday, around 64,000 people – approximately 9% - of the under-80s group, which includes NHS and care staff, had received their Covid vaccine in the Suffolk and north east Essex area.  

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that all care home residents and staff in England had been offered their first dose as of Monday, with care minister Helen Whately adding that vaccine teams aim to complete the social care workforce by February 15. 

“We know that there were some staff worried about the idea of having the vaccination,” she told BBC Breakfast. 

“But what I am hearing is that when the vaccination teams go into the care homes, staff are coming forward.” 

Beccy Hopfensperger, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for adult care, said the authority is encouraging all care home staff to have the vaccine when offered. 

Rebecca Hopfensperger, cabinet member for adult care Picture: SIMON LEE/SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Rebecca Hopfensperger, cabinet member for adult care Picture: SIMON LEE/SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

“The uptake among staff in Suffolk, so far, has been good, and we are working closely with the homes and the CCG to make sure that the opportunity and process is as easy as possible,” she added. 

“It continues to be an incredibly difficult time for those who live and work in care homes. My thoughts go out to those families and friends who have lost loved ones to this devastating and brutal virus.”  

Unison, which represents social care workers, said BAME care staff need access to proper medical information so they can make an informed decision about immunisation. 

Eastern regional organiser Winston Dorsett added: “The vaccine offers the best chance for a way out of the pandemic so it’s vital that it’s rolled out across Suffolk and the rest of the UK. 

“Care staff are among the hardest hit by this pandemic, experiencing higher death rates and more sickness – not to mention the emotional toll of seeing so many of those they care for die.”