Calls for vaccine passports in Northern Ireland yet not for compulsory vaccines for NHS and care staff

News Letter editorial of Tuesday November 16 2021:

Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 8:23 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 2:07 pm
News Letter editorial

A strangely uneven debate is unfolding over Covid passports.

There is growing support for them from a range of politicians, from the SDLP to now Robin Swann, and other voices, like Dr Tom Black.

Yet there is a notable reticence about forcing NHS and care staff to be vaccinated. Why?

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Why is that in or around 90% of the adult population in Northern Ireland is believed to have had at least one jab, yet there is barely any commentary on the fact that as few as 80% of health workers might be the same (if snapshots from some trusts are a reflection of the wider position)?

Suddenly when it comes to health and care staff there is a wealth of understanding of the reticence to get jabbed.

Suddenly there is lots of talk about personal choice.

Suddenly it is all about encouragement, not stick.

But when it came to closing restaurants and hospitality, it was not about understanding and encouragement and voluntary co-operation, it was about enforcement, whether it led to financial ruin or not.

Health and care staff are among the most important category of workers to have vaccines given their close contact with patients.

We know that vaccines are massively effective when it comes to diminishing the impact of getting infected with cornavirus. They are also significantly effective, albeit it less so, in stopping infection at all.

There are justified concerns about losing staff to jab requirements but those fears just explain why it should have been prepared for months ago, not why the matter is shelved.

There are strong arguments to be made in favour of requiring society at large to have proof of vaccines before participation is allowed in a range of events, such as crowd gatherings. Mr Swann, the health minister, and others are right to float this position. But some of these same voices are too reticent when it comes to requiring health and care workers to be jabbed, as other countries are doing.

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