Health Minister Robin Swann has announced plans for a public consultation on mandatory COVID-19 and flu vaccination for new recruits to the health and social care workforce in Northern Ireland.
The Minister said introducing such a measure would be a significant development that should only be undertaken after careful consideration.
“Vaccination is central to our efforts to support health and social care services during this extremely challenging winter and beyond. I remain convinced that persuasion is the best and most effective option when it comes to vaccination.
“There are compelling arguments that mandatory vaccination for existing health and social care staff in Northern Ireland could be counter-productive – potentially destabilising an already fragile workforce.
“Against that, I also have great sympathy for those who only want their loved ones to be cared for by fully vaccinated staff.”
The Minister continued: “All options remain under consideration. I will closely monitor the situation in England – including the impact of mandatory vaccination on staffing in its social care sector.
“Notwithstanding the challenges, I want to see progress in this area. I look to Trusts, care homes and other employers to continue making every effort to persuade staff of the benefits of both COVID-19 and flu vaccination.
“Furthermore, in announcing my intention to consult on making COVID and flu vaccination compulsory for people starting new jobs in health and social care, I want a constructive engagement.
“There is no predetermined outcome. Trade unions, employees and employers will have a key role in this consultation, but the views of the general public will also be very important.”