by Steve James
Tuesday, 1
February 2022
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11:12

Scrapping the NHS mandate is good for public health

Losing up to 100,000 staff would have crippled our health service
by Steve James

The Government has announced that it is scrapping the vaccine mandate for NHS staff in England. I had hoped this would happen, as I told UnHerd in my interview last month (see above). This is an undoubtedly sensible decision, given that between 80,000 and 120,000 workers still have not taken the vaccine and would have been left with an agonising choice to make by April 1st.

I explained my own reservations about the policy to Sajid Javid a few weeks ago; the conversation went viral, but it felt important to share how I and tens of thousands of other doctors felt about the issue. I was labelled as anti-vax, deluded and irresponsible, but I stood by my convictions. Thankfully, the Government eventually came round to my way of thinking.

The Government’s original justification for the mandates was this: Omicron was highly transmissible and cases were skyrocketing. But this was a purely epidemiological argument; on the moral side, vaccine mandates are in complete violation of bodily autonomy, and as a doctor, I felt like I would be undermining the principle of consent.

Historically it has implicitly fallen to the fit and healthy to acquire natural immunity. This is an entirely logical approach, but our Covid response has centred on jabbing as many people as possible, no matter how healthy. Given the tiny rates of deaths and hospitalisations for the otherwise fit and under 50, this was always a crude approach.

Viruses typically become less virulent as they evolve; Javid must have known this, but it appears that no provision was made for such an outcome. Even with Delta, there was never a strong rationale in favour of mandating vaccination in a healthcare setting— except as a tool of coercion. Given that any reduction in transmission lasts only a few months, the high rates of healthcare staff exposure would have only offered a marginal benefit at best.

The only way to keep up vaccine induced immunity would have been a programme of extremely regular vaccinations and boosters — which even the EU head of vaccination strategy advises against

It is not unreasonable to have a concern for side effects of newer vaccines — particularly if you are not convinced of their benefit for you in the first place — and it usually takes years before mandatory vaccinations are approved for the protection of healthcare staff. To lose as many as 100,000 NHS staff members to prove a point within a few months would cripple our health service and leave us in an even worse position to deal with the ever-growing backlog of appointments. Overall, it would have been bad for public health.

Looking beyond vaccines, there are many other areas that the Government could focus on. Tackling weight loss, for instance, would provide the country with a whole host of benefits, not least in dealing with Covid. As the virulence of Covid wanes, we should begin to treat Sars CoV2 like a seasonal flu rather than obsessing about vaccinating the entire country several times over. The Government’s scrapping of the NHS mandate is a significant step back towards a healthier attitude and, ultimately, a healthier population.

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Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
6 months ago

Good luck with the weight loss suggestion which is a no brainer. It is of course the elephant in the room that no-one wants to tackle…

James Joyce
James Joyce
6 months ago

Smoking? Many have called for the unjabbed to be denied healthcare and/or pay penalties. The obese are low-hanging fruit, though of course they don’t eat fruit, but chocolate instead.
Let’s focus on people with too much stress, not getting enough sleep. Cameras tracking them 24/7 should do the trick!

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
6 months ago

There’s certainly a big, fat opportunity to improve health outcomes. But I wouldn’t call it low-hanging fruit – too many people want to have their cake and eat it too. They’d rather belly-ache about us anti-vaxxers… oh I could go on all day.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
6 months ago

I see myself as very fit. I run 30-40 miles a week and am very light. I don’t smoke or eat sweets and chocolates. I am quite old and I am a male person (if that terminology is allowed). But I am a freak.
All around me I see acres, or even hectares, of fat. When I go shopping I see (usually) female people in their 50s who struggle to move; in fact they struggle to stand up and have to lean on the trolley. This is not just a few people; it is about two-thirds of the UK population.
I get really angry when I see casual posts – “they are just fat, they’re not like us, they’re not important.” Also, “they’re just old people, they don’t count”. The UK has spent billions of dollars to prolong the lives of people but it has failed because they might live longer but they are getting more and more unhealthy.
To cap it all, I know that my apparent fitness is an illusion. I am a man and am twice as likely to die from Covid as, perhaps, a fat woman – because of my chromosomes. Despite my efforts, despite never smoking, despite the ridiculous macho posts I see on these pages, we are all in a lottery.
You seem to be like me, an ordinary family person, and the shear task of dissuading people from becoming fat is daunting.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
6 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

“despite the ridiculous macho posts I see on these pages,”

haha, I know who you mean…….

But lets not macho-shame. Like the fat person I am what I am, it is how I was born. I would have loved being conformist, to have gone along, I would have become a very wealthy Banker or Lawyer with a trophy wife and three privately educated over achieving children and a magnificent house…..

Instead I was the worst student in my school, a dropout, and a stoner/waster and drifter most of my life. But I must mention – to fail as spectacularly in school, and in life, as I did was a lot more work than it would have been to get top grades and a high paying job – I have a high IQ – and to be the failure in life I managed, at my level of underachieving, it took real effort. But I was just born that way, can’t help it….. I am Macho to the point of self harming…..and never could be told what to do….

Last edited 6 months ago by Galeti Tavas
jill dowling
jill dowling
6 months ago

And the NHS sets a terrible example with the obesity of many of the nurses working there.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
6 months ago

Last Friday I was called by the guy who was going to be my new boss. He told me that the charity I would be working for (providing mental health support groups to families in primary schools), was part of the NHS partnership and that because of this they were withdrawing the job offer because I am unvaccinated against covid. I was uneasy about the legalities of this move as I the contract that I signed didn’t make any such stipulations.
Yesterday I emailed him in the light of the possibility that the gov would u-turn on their intention to mandate vaccines in for NHS staff; he thought that the mandate requirement would be extended to a later date. So, this is great news, I may get my job back.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
6 months ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

Congrats, Alex!

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
6 months ago

Well said.
And in addition, it seemed completely wrong to mandate a vaccine that was basically no longer effective against the variant du jours (i.e. Omicron).

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
6 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The entire Plandemic was completely wrong.

The millions of third world and developing world people, especially children, whose lives were destroyed by their lockdown’s (which IMF forced them to do for nefarious reasons) – and more so by the Western lockdowns will cost 1000 lives globally to each 80 year old Westerner whose life was extended a couple years. Take Bangladesh – they mostly make cheap garments as industry. The loss of work from the Lockdowns deminishing economic activity in the West is devastating. AND the funding of our people sitting at home, not producing, and with pay – the $ Trillions and $ Trillions we spent insanely, – gave us this Massive inflation.

Those Bangladeshis now have to pay an additional 30% on their food! With less work! And their money devalues against the $ so it gets worse……Do you think their pay will go up? Or do you think they will eat less?

And that is without talking of how in the West it looks like 85% of covid deaths were unessary, and way more will die from collateral damage than were saved by the Vax, many more.

Watch this – Senator US, Ron Johnson, Senate hearing with the top experts – it is fascinating. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxkqEE-Qnw0

Stuart Sutherland
Stuart Sutherland
6 months ago

I’ve heard many a medic describing obesity as a bigger health crisis than covid! Overweight, lack of exercise and bad diet are probably the leading cause for hospitilsation of under 65’s.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
6 months ago

No doubt it is. And no doubt 99% of the population understand that. So they can be left to make the choice. After all, we will all die of something and that will involve hospitalisation costs for most of us, so if we go sooner it at least will save on pensions, free bus passes, etc

Matthew
Matthew
6 months ago

It’s a shame it took so long. How many were forced to get the vaccine for fear of losing their jobs? And how must they be feeling now?

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
6 months ago

Blanket vaccination of health staff never seemed a good idea but the NHS should have a record of staff vaccinations, apparently they do not, and should be prepared to use it organising the treatment of specific patients if not doing so is an unacceptable risk to that patient’s health. Death rates would have been much lower if the government, health and care services had focussed on protecting the vulnerable. It would also have reduced the diversion of health services to covid patients.

Helen Hughes
Helen Hughes
6 months ago

Oh dear – I have received an email from the government saying that before they revoke the new laws they will hold a public consultation and a debate in parliament… I presume rather cynically that this will be an attempt to prove that a majority of the public want the mandates and that they must reluctantly keep them?

jill dowling
jill dowling
6 months ago

“The Government’s original justification for the mandates was this: Omicron was highly transmissible and cases were skyrocketing.”
I don’t think this is accurate. The mandatory vaccination was mooted way before this, when many people were dying in hospital. The fear was that unvaccinated staff could die themselves or cause their patients to die.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
6 months ago

Isn’t this the old video of the cautious doctor and Freddy discussing how the Vaccine is not worth taking because it does not work so good……

Well that reason is junk – the real reason to not take it is:

1) Freedom, Nuremberg Trials. Rule of ‘Informed Consent’ were completely violated as all the risks and studies were not revealed.“Informed consent is a principle in medical ethics and medical law that a patient should have sufficient information before making their own free decisions about their medical care”

2) It kills more than it saves by incredible collateral Damage so one is a ‘Conscientious Objector’ by refusing, And this is a Protected political position

3) the global economy is irreparably harmed, and so vast amounts of low income in the world reduced to abject poverty. Pensions and savings being destroyed by inflation and zero interest (both covid response caused issues) and a massive bubble in the equities, wrecking of bonds, asset appreciation is huge risk to the global peace. More $ Trillions of debt created than can Ever be paid off – so become an albatross of the young – whose education we destroyed.

4) Forbidding use of early treatment killed 85% of those who died – . The virus is gone after a week – the hospitalizations are second week, after the virus is gone! The USA instructions were to ‘Go Home, and when your lips turn blue, call an ambulance. In other words, Die. After the 5 days of the virus it is finished. The rest is medical complications from it – Treatable complications, if done early. If treatments are done in the first 5 days the survival is almost 100% – but this was forbidden, forbidden to be studied, and to be discussed on Social Media. Because if there was treatment there would be vax hesitancy, and the agenda was everyone on the world to get vaxed.

Refusing the vax is not just a health choice – it is being a ‘Conscientious Objector’ because of the harms to OTHERS by its uptake, as was done by the response, forcing this non-sterilizing, experimental vax on the Globe. Refusing is saying ‘I will not be part of this crime against humanity’ that were the global lockdowns, Money Printing causing inflation, Keeping interest Zero, breaking supply chains (remember every empty spot on the shelf is something someone was not paid to make) and the future coming Great depression.

Make a stance! This doctor and Freddy needed to bring politics in – as this decision is entirely politics – yet they pretend it is just a personal health decision – NO refusing is a Political choice now – why does he not discuss that?

Best Covid-19 video – Jan 24, 2022, Senator Ron Johnson at a Senate hearing with the world’s top experts, health workers, and scientists, and people damaged by the vax….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxkqEE-Qnw0

Ian Moore
Ian Moore
6 months ago

I believe we’re only at the bottom of the curve when it comes to obesity. I can’t see anything other than a rise in obesity with (and not limited to) the effects of lockdown, the impending/current increase in cost of living, the encouragement from people like Facebook to live in a virtual world, plus many the other factors it is very easy to see the population becoming increasingly immobile. No exercise and poor diet is a recipe for disaster.
I’ve had numerous friends put on significant weight during the crisis, and some of these will be “unreported” obesity cases. Extrapolate this across the country and you see why it’s possible you’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Peter B
Peter B
6 months ago

This is a terrible decision. Even worse for having been taken and then reversed.
The question you need to ask is “why are there 100000 health service employees who don’t consider protecting the health of their patients to be that important ?”. That’s approaching 10% of NHS staff.
How can you expect the population as a whole to get vaccinated if the NHS itself is unable to show clear leadership ?

Gerard A
Gerard A
6 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

You are living in the past I am afraid. The mandate may have had some basis when the Alpha variant was dominant, much less so with Delta, and none at all with Omicron. The vaccines give zero protection against transmission unless you are boosted, and we already know that starts to wane after only 10 weeks. So any health protection by mandating is minimal. On the other hand losing 5-10% of NHS and Care staff would lead to a huge increase in adverse health outcomes. Already over 10% of NHS beds are blocked because there is no available care into which they can be discharged, a situation made worse by the loss of care home staff since the mandate was applied there.
On your final point, given the relative lack of pressure on the NHS that Omicron poses and the lower risk of the variant , why vaccinate anybody other than the old, fat and otherwise vulnerable?

Last edited 6 months ago by Gerard A
Gordon Black
Gordon Black
6 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

If 10% of pilots and airlines refuse to fly a specific model of airliner (as happened recently), I suppose you would be quite happy to board the 90% still flying.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
6 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

I’m afraid you’re fighting a losing battle on this site. This is the site where everybody is fit and active and invulnerable. It is only the people who don’t contribute to this discussion who are at risk.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
6 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Or this is the site where people value the freedom to choose what to put in their own bodies. Or who would rather take their chances with COVID than be dictated to by politicians who flout their own rules and use media propaganda to bully people into compliance.
The pandemic seems to have divided us into two groups: those who like to be told what to do because it serves what they think is the greater good, and those who don’t because they worry that the concept of the greater good is being used against them to breed conformity of behavior and narrowness of thought.

Peter B
Peter B
6 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Has it occurred to you that there is diversity of thought and opinion on both sides here (assuming there must be sides) ? For example, my comment currently has 37 downvotes and 0 upvotes – this might look rather like groupthink and conformity on “your side”.
It’s news to me that I “like to be told what to do” – my family and friends will be most surprised to hear this !
The cost-benefit analysis on taking the vaccine is simple. If you believe the risks (and costs) of Covid are greater than those of the vaccine, then you take the vaccine. No one needs pretend that the vaccine is “zero risk” to do this. You don’t even need to care about the “greater good” to do this. You don’t need to be bullied or coerced. Naturally, individual judgements on this tradeoff will vary.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
6 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Peter – it is the 90% who took the vaccine (excluding those with coexisting health issues, the one group the vax is appropriate for) that I think did the wrong thing.

This was a disease of the old and frail – but the young and healthy carried all the costs.

Peter B
Peter B
6 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Since when is an individual exercising free choice and judgement “doing the wrong thing” ? How does someone else taking a Covid vaccine harm you ?