C: Still from Sky News

WATCH: Consultant’s direct challenge to NHS vaccine mandates goes viral – “I do not want to have a vaccination”

An NHS consultant’s direct challenge to NHS vaccine mandates live on Sky News has gone viral.

Dr Steve James, a consultant anaesthetist who has been treating patients with Covid since the start of the pandemic, spoke up to UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid about his opposition to mandatory vaccines for all NHS staff.

Dr James explained that he had contracted and recovered from Covid-19 and it was his medical belief that the antibodies he had from natural immunity would protect him.  

“I’m not happy about that […] I have not had a vaccination; I do not want to have a vaccination. The vaccine [is] reducing transmission only for about eight weeks with delta. With omicron, it’s probably less. And for that, I would be dismissed if I don’t have a vaccine? The science isn’t strong enough,” Dr James told the Health Secretary in his defence of unvaccinated NHS staff like himself, who are now at risk of losing their jobs. 

The video has gained significant support online, with social media users calling Dr James ‘a hero’ for being outspoken about his views. On Twitter, NHS GP, medical writer and resident GP of BBC Radio London and OK! Magazine, Renée Hoenderkamp, praised the consultant for his ‘sensible, reasoned, intelligent’ argument against vaccine mandates.

“I couldn’t agree more, there are more of us, most of us are too scared to speak out (which I understand),” she added.

The consultant shared his views with the Health Secretary during Mr Javid’s televised visit to King’s College Hospital in South London, which was broadcast as part of a Sky News report this week. Dr James has since told the BBC that he believes vaccination must be a matter of personal choice. The video begins with Mr Javid asking NHS staff what they thought about requiring all NHS staff to be vaccinated during the visit to promote the Covid booster shot. 

“What do you think of the new rule to require vaccination of all NHS staff?” he asks. The group of staff look uncomfortable, laughing nervously as they look at one another and fail to speak up.

Behind the Health Secretary, Dr James intercepts: “I’m not happy about that,” he tells the Health Secretary. Mr Javid, appearing surprised, replies, “You’re not happy about that. Tell me [why].”

The doctor goes on to say that because he has had Covid, and having worked on Covid ICU wards for the best part of two years, he has antibodies which will offer him protection – as an alternative to the vaccine.

“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.”

A stunned Mr Javid replies but fails to give a direct response to the doctor’s arguments, as he turns back to the other staff asking them to give a response, presumably in favour of vaccine mandates. 

“That’s your view. And your views, any view on that? I respect that but there’s also many other many different views.”

“I agree with that, yeah. There are other views,” the consultant said in response, revealing that another of his colleagues held the same position.

“I have another colleague who’s also in the same position,” he says in the video as he looks to the Health Secretary for a response.

“I understand that, and obviously we have to weigh all that up in both health and social care, and there will always be a debate about it,” Mr Javid says.

Dr James didn’t stop there though, and goes on to ask the Health Minister, on behalf of all unvaccinated NHS staff in fear of losing their jobs, if there is an opportunity presented by the less severe omicron variant to reconsider the harsh rule.

“Maybe there’s an opportunity to reconsider with omicron and the changing picture, or at least the nuance of allowing doctors who have had antibody exposure, who have got antibodies, who haven’t had the vaccination, to not have it. Because the protection I’ve got from transmission is the equivalent to someone who’s vaccinated.”

“Yeah, but at some point, that will wane as well,” Mr Javid replies.

“But if you want to provide protection with the booster, you’d have to inject everybody every month. If it’s worn off by two months, then after a month, you’ve still got a bit of protection. So if you want to maintain protection, you’re going to need to boost all staff members every single month, which you’re not going to do,” Dr James tells the Health Secretary. 

“It’s not going to achieve a practical benefit,” the consultant says of boosters.    

As reported by Gript in November, Covid immunity after infection could be “permanent” according to NPHET modelling tweeted by Professor Philip Nolan. In considering an optimistic scenario for Covid -19 Public Health Advice, the slide states that “infection-induced immunity is permanent”.

Gript’s Niamh Uí Bhriain reported that: “It’s been understood for a very long time that acquired immunity – the immunity to a virus that we obtain from recovering after being infected with said virus – is often robust and long lasting. Studies in regard to Covid-19 have also shown that this is the case in regard to the coronavirus.

“A recent preprint in the scientific journal Cell found that a longitudinal analysis showed “durable and broad immune memory” after an infection with Covid-19 “with persisting antibody responses and memory B and T cells”.  Moreover, they took aim at the “notion” that immunity conferred after recovery from Covid-19 might be short-lived, saying that the investigation showed the generation of long-lived plasma cells and “refute the current notion that these antibody responses to human coronaviruses are short lived.”

Conservative MP for the Forest of Dean, Mark Harper, also showed support for the consultant, writing that those against mandatory vaccines of NHS staff were ‘against coercion’ as he highlighted that the Government does not have a plan to replace the staff they’re ‘going to dismiss’. He highlighted those doctors like Dr James were now facing the sack, despite once being the same individuals celebrated as heroes for fighting Covid.

In a disclaimer posted at the end of the Sky News video, the media outlet shared a statement from King’s College Hospital insisting that staff have not yet been mandated to have vaccines or disclose vaccine status to patients. It read: “While currently it is not a mandatory requirement for staff to get their COVID-19 vaccination or disclose their vaccination status to patients, we strongly support and encourage all our staff to get their jabs, in line with national guidance – and nearly 90% of our staff have already done so.”

However, the viral video comes as a King’s College Hospital’s boss admitted they may lose staff over compulsory vaccinations. The head of one of London’s busiest hospitals said today that he is worried about the possibility of losing staff when new rules come in forcing them to be vaccinated.

From April, front-line NHS staff in England will be required to have the Covid jab – if they don’t, they will be moved to another role or face losing their jobs in a move which has sparked uproar. Clive Kay, King’s College Hospital chief, admitted that 10% of his 14,000 staff are still unvaccinated. 

Mr Kay was speaking on BBC’s Sunday Morning Programme today following the online explosion of the Sky News interview with Dr James, an ICU consultant. Mr Kay declined to say whether or not he believes the rule is fair. Pressed on the rules, he said that it could mean people leaving their current job: “There’s a possibility if they choose not to be vaccinated, they could be redeployed. And if we can’t find that opportunity to redeploy them then the consequence is that they will [not have a job].”

He added that he was “of course” worried about staffing, as he told the BBC: “My job is to worry about everything in relation to whether or not we have enough staff here to provide care for patients safely.” 

It comes as Dr James told the BBC on Sunday that he himself stands opposed to mandatory vaccination, adding: “My view is that we should not mandate vaccination.”

He explained: “Normally you go through the process of informed consent, where you weigh up as a doctor with the patient, the risks, the benefits, and that person’s personal preference.” He also said he has been written to by “hundreds” of people since he challenged Mr Javid on air, who had expressed their thanks and gratitude to him for speaking up about how he felt.

“I’ve been written to by a group of midwives who say that, I think 41 or 45 of them in that unit will all not be vaccinated. That means the entire midwife staff from one hospital are going to leave,” he said. 

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, a public consultation is set to take place on proposals to make Covid jabs compulsory for NHS workers.


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