The race is on to vaccinate around 450 frontline staff at Harrogate District Hospital after the government announced it was making covid jabs mandatory.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid last week announced he expected to set a deadline for all unvaccinated workers to get both jabs by the beginning of April in a move which he said would help protect patients and the NHS as a whole.
However, there are concerns it could lead to more staffing shortages in the health service which is still dealing with pandemic pressures and long backlogs.
The vaccine mandate will affect around 100,000 unvaccinated staff in England and follows a consultation which considered whether the rules already in place for care home workers should be introduced.
It is estimated around 90% of all staff are vaccinated, although the numbers vary at different hospital trusts with coverage at some falling to around 80%.
At Harrogate District Hospital, the figure is 91% although bosses believe it could be higher as it doesn’t take into account new starters or staff who have been vaccinated outside of work.
Steve Russell, chief executive at Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“The vast majority of our staff have had their covid-19 vaccinations, however, there are a small number who have not yet been jabbed.
“We understand there can be a variety of reasons as to why some staff have elected not to have the vaccine.
“We are keen to support those members of staff who are eligible for the vaccine, but have yet to have it, to try and allay their concerns using impartial, factual information.”
The deadline for care home workers to get vaccinated passed last week with around 250 staff in North Yorkshire now facing losing their jobs if they can not be redeployed.
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Officials at North Yorkshire County Council – which has launched its biggest-ever care recruitment campaign – say vaccine take up in the county has been good, although they admitted the numbers of unvaccinated staff was still significant for a sector already struggling with a depleted workforce.
If a similar trend is seen for the NHS, the health service could find itself severely short of staff come the spring.
Mr Russell added:
“On a daily basis we see how severe the effects of contracting covid-19 can be and it is important that we do all that we can to ensure the safety of our patients, visitors and staff.
“The covid-19 vaccination is an effective means of preventing the spread of the virus by building protection. Since it has become available we have been encouraging all of our staff – not just those that are patient facing – to get vaccinated.
“Over the last couple of months we have also been offering our colleagues the booster if they are eligible.
“We have and will continue to encourage colleagues who have not yet had the vaccination to get jabbed by spring 2022 and if the need arises we will follow government guidance regarding those people who have elected not to have the vaccination.”