The British government say it is considering whether to scrap mandatory Coronavirus vaccines for frontline health and social care workers in the light of the less severe Omicron variant.
Ministers had been facing pressure to put back the requirement for staff in England to be double jabbed by April amid fears it would lead to a major staffing crisis.
The requirement for care home staff to have two doses came into force in November, 2021.
Frontline NHS and wider social care staff would need their first dose by Thursday in order to be double jabbed by April 1, and there have been protests and calls for the policy to be delayed.
Simon Clarke, chief secretary to the Treasury, said it was a policy “we have always kept under review’’ and that the decision was made when the “extremely dangerous’ ’Delta variant was dominant.
He told Sky News “we continue to monitor that situation very closely.
“What we know about Omicron is much more transmissible but less severe, any decision that is taken this week will reflect that reality.
“I can’t pre-judge the decision that is going to be made but obviously we do recognise those realities, and that does open a space where we can look at this again.’’
Health Secretary Sajid Javid is set to meet ministers on the COVID-Operations Cabinet committee on Monday to confirm the U-turn, according to The Daily Telegraph.
It comes after the Department of Health and Social Care said earlier there were no plans to change the policy following a number of reports suggesting ministers were considering an 11th-hour delay.
However, Javid said on Tuesday that the policy is being “kept under review’’.
He said it was “right’’ to reflect on COVID-19 policies but he added that frontline NHS staff should have a COVID-19 jab as a “professional duty’’.
Clarke said it would be up to health ministers to decide whether the mandatory vaccination policy should remain in place for social care workers should the move be scrapped for NHS staff.
Nadra Ahmed, chairwoman of the National Care Association, said she was “frustrated’’ and “saddened for the care home staff who had lost their jobs needlessly’’ owing to the introduction of mandatory vaccination.