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UK sees huge protests against vaccine mandates for NHS staff

Huge protests took place in the UK at the weekend against plans to make vaccines mandatory for NHS staff in England. Central London was ‘flooded’ with thousands of protestors, including many healthcare workers who face being sacked for refusing to be jabbed. Protests also took place in Newcastle and Manchester. The protests came as the Covid vaccine deadline for NHS staff is reportedly set to be pushed back amid fears that the NHS could lose thousands of staff.

The Telegraph reports that the requirement is likely to be “kicked down the road” as the 1st of April deadline approaches. Whilst all frontline NHS staff are currently required to have had two jabs by April 1, more than 80,000 – six per cent of the workforce – remain unvaccinated.

Simon Fox, an NHS infectious diseases consultant, is one such doctor. Speaking to GB News recently, he said: “My personal decision was based on the fact that I have had the infection, I’ve recovered from it and I have a degree of natural immunity now.”

Gript also reported on comments made by unvaccinated consultant anaesthetist, Dr, Steve James, who told British Health Secretary Sajid Javid on Sky News that he would not be taking a vaccine because he already had Covid antibodies from being infected with Covid. 

“So, I’ve had COVID at some point, I’ve got antibodies, and I’ve been working on COVID ICU since the beginning,” he said. “I have not had a vaccination; I do not want to have a vaccination,” he said in the video which went viral.

If the April 1 deadline does go ahead, it means that all healthcare workers in the NHS will have to get their first jab next month – if they are to be double jabbed by April. If they do not do that, then they risk losing their jobs. This makes the NHS’s vaccine mandate a huge concern to a lot of people, including those who have been jabbed. 

NHS staff will be required to have two doses of the vaccine and official NHS figures show around 85,000 staff have not had any, with a further 40,000 just getting one dose. Bosses will dismiss staff who are unvaccinated that cannot be redeployed to a non-patient facing role.

Saturday’s protest in central London was attended not only by those at risk of losing their jobs, but also by many healthcare workers who are fully vaccinated, and attended the protest to support their friends and colleagues in the healthcare service.

One Sky News reporter, reporting live at Saturday’s protest in central London, interviewed one nurse named Carl who was present. He said that the issue comes down to ‘freedom of choice’ and ‘bodily autonomy’.

“Tell me the reason why you’ve come here today,” the reporter asked. 

“I’ve come here today, because, for me, it’s about freedom of choice and bodily autonomy. So, I should have the right to decide what I put into my body.” he told the reporter. 

“So, you are at risk of losing your job then?” the reporter asked. “I am indeed, yeah. If it continues, I will be out of a job on the 1st of April, yes.”

“Would you describe yourself as an anti-vaxxer?” the reporter asked. 

“No I wouldn’t, no. I’ve had every other vaccine up until this point,” 

Protesting in London, one young ambulance worker, Christabelle Gregory, aged 32, told The Daily Mail: “People were once clapping for us but there’s no appreciation any more. I’m young and I’ve got antibodies from working on the frontline, so I don’t want the vaccine.”

It’s not just healthcare workers who are standing in opposition to incoming vaccine mandates. Many Tory backbenchers have made it known that they are not happy with the proposal on ethical grounds. There are also logistical concerns too – because there are warnings that we could see tens of thousands of staff shortages if the plan goes ahead and NHS workers lose their jobs in April. The government, however, continues to argue that mandatory jabs are an important part of their pandemic response. 

One tweet, which had 13,000 retweets on Twitter over the weekend, captured NHS staff from across the UK laying down their uniforms on the steps of Trafalgar Square. 

In response, a video of a similar protest in Blackburn was shared, whilst one Twitter user, referencing the protests across the UK, wrote: “The tone is changing.”

Signs photographed at London’s protest read: “No vaccine mandates NHS” and “No vaccine passports”. Others held up NHS scrubs, which had the words “RIP NHS” drawn on them in black marker. Another sign highlighted how NHS workers had gone from “heros to zeroes” from the beginning of the pandemic up until now.

Other supporters of the protest asked social media users to show ‘solidarity’ to the NHS staff facing dismissal by adding a purple heart emoji to their Twitter profiles.

Critics of the proposal claim the vaccine mandates breach human rights and discriminate against those who have made their own personal medical decisions – which should remain private. Moreover, it is argued that Downing Street cannot afford the loss of up to 80,000 unvaccinated workers, and neither can the NHS. 

“Stand down Sajid Javid,” one tweet on social media read, adding: “Stand #together.”

Whilst the deadline for mandatory jabs may be pushed back, a health service leader has said that delaying the requirement would fail to stop “several thousand” people losing their jobs. 

Speaking to The Telegraph, Danny Mortimer, CEO of NHS Employers and deputy CEO of NHS Confederation, said: “A delay gives a little bit more time [to get through winter pressures].” 

“But the bottom line is we could give people another four weeks and we’d still be in a position where several thousand people will lose their jobs on the frontline.”

Under eleventh-hour plans being considered by Boris Johnson to help quell an enormous revolt among Toty MPs, compulsory Covid vaccines for NHS workers would be delayed for six months. On Saturday night, just two weeks before the NHS is due to begin sacking unvaccinated staff, a Whitehall source told The Telegraph that the requirement is likely to be “kicked down the road”, amid demands by Conservative backbenchers for it to be axed entirely. 

The reports come ahead of a crucial fortnight for the British Prime Minister, as disenchanted MPs prepare to submit letters of no confidence if a report by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, implicates the Prime Minister for wrongdoing over the alleged government parties held in Downing Street whilst Covid restrictions imposed by No 10 were still in place. 

The plan being considered by the government is to overhaul the requirement so that staff would, in theory, be required to have their booster as well as being double jabbed. The deadline would also be delayed by six months, seemingly to give workers time to have their third vaccine. Such a delay will likely reassure and give hope to some MPs opposed to the move that it will ultimately not transpire.

“I suspect there are lots of people who believe the NHS and Government won’t go through with this, that the Government doesn’t want to lose a single nurse or a single doctor. But the value of the vaccine far outweighs the loss of a few thousand people,” Mr Mortimer told The Telegraph. 

Meanwhile, First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakefrord, said he “would not rule out” recruiting unvaccinated NHS staff who had lost their jobs in England. Speaking to BBC Radio 4 over the weekend, Mr Drakefrord reiterated that Wales will not make vaccines mandatory for NHS staff.

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