The NHS consultant who challenged Sajid Javid explains all to Freddie Sayers
Steve James is a critical care consultant at King’s College Hospital in London. When Health Secretary Sajid Javid visited last Friday, he asked the NHS staff about what they thought of the forthcoming mandates that will make Covid vaccination a condition of deployment for NHS staff. Dr James spoke out, saying why he was against the mandate and why he hadn’t taken the vaccine himself.
It made headlines across the UK media, in particular coming from a Cambridge-educated NHS frontline doctor. Dr James came in to the UnHerd studio to explain his position in more detail to Freddie Sayers.
While he does not think of himself as ‘anti-vax’ (he dislikes the label), he argues that there’s nothing wrong with individuals preferring not to take vaccines if they so choose. Nevertheless, he accepts that vaccines have had an important effect on Covid hospitalisation rates. “Undoubtedly the vaccines have made a big difference,” he says.
But he objects to the simplistic messaging around vaccination, saying that because Covid is so much more dangerous to older people and vulnerable groups, the insistence on universal vaccination (including making examples of people who refuse) is inappropriate.
Dr James has had Covid (he doesn’t know when, but tests positive for antibodies). But he admits he hadn’t taken the vaccine even for the period of months before he tested for antibodies, because he preferred to wait a period to fully understand the extent of any side effects.
He has also personally witnessed some potential Covid vaccine side effects, which made him more alive to the potential risks:
What made him speak out was the sense that the debate was being stifled, even among NHS workers:
He’s had a mixture of positive and negative reactions within the hospital since he spoke out, but referred to mounting questions among NHS workers:
He hopes that the policy will change before the April deadline, but is prepared to lose his job rather than be vaccinated. “If push comes to shove, I’m not going to have the vaccine, no… I’ll lose my job.” He says he would move to another country where the rules are different.
Dr James feels that he would not be able to be a good doctor if his integrity had been compromised by taking a medication that he didn’t want. He said that better information about both the risks and rewards of taking the vaccine should be put out by the Government in a way that people can tailor to their own risk profile.
So does he think the policy will change, and will he still be working in the NHS come April?