by Amy Jones
Monday, 24
January 2022
Dispatch
10:35

What NHS workers told me at the mandate protest

To cast them all as 'anti-vaxxers' misses the point
by Amy Jones
Credit: Getty

It must go down as one of the most powerful images of the pandemic. Nearly two years after rainbows, Thursday night clapping and proclamations to “protect the NHS”, thousands of healthcare workers found themselves taking to the streets to protest against the government plan to sack NHS staff who refuse Covid vaccinations. The march culminated in protestors dumping their uniforms outside Downing Street.

It would be easy to paint this protest as “antivax”, but as I spoke to the NHS staff who were protesting, it became apparent that doing so would be simplistic at best and disingenuous at worst.

While some mentioned their belief in natural immunity, and antibodies in lieu of vaccination, the vast majority of people I spoke to were less concerned about the vaccine itself and more worried about what the mandate represented — not only for themselves, but for their colleagues, and the NHS in general. Many were vaccinated, but chose to stand against the policy in solidarity with their unvaccinated colleagues.

Some, such as Anne, a midwife with 8 years’ service, were worried about the impact on staffing. While she had been vaccinated, she was adamantly opposed to the mandate, explaining: “I don’t want them to sack my colleagues. We are so short-staffed. This will destroy us”.

Her fears are well-founded. Based on the government’s own risk assessment, the NHS is on track to lose 73,000 staff as a result of the mandate. This is against the backdrop of dire staffing levels, with NHS trusts reporting over 100,000 vacancies, including 36,000 nursing vacancies. The policy also comes at a time when there is widespread unhappiness in the NHS, with a survey in October 2021 showing three-quarters of staff had considered leaving in the past 12 months. It seems likely that this mandate will precipitate a significant crisis in staffing.

Few were swayed by the argument that mandating a vaccination for healthcare workers would send a message to the public. Matt, a radiographer argued:

If anything, I think it does the opposite. The public are just wondering — if the vaccine is so good, why are they trying to force staff to have it on threat of losing their jobs? This policy causes more anti-vax thinking.
- Matt, radiographer

Others were concerned about what kind of precedent this mandate would set. Many feared that it would give the NHS the power to alter employment terms and conditions retrospectively, which could result in them losing their jobs.

But the central theme to have emerged from my conversations with protesters — vaccinated and unvaccinated — was the importance of bodily autonomy and consent. As Alice, an emergency nurse practitioner explained: “It’s about the principle. I cannot advocate for consent for my patients and deny it for myself and my peers”. This sentiment was shared by Dr Steve James in his interview with UnHerd as well.

Many of those I spoke to saw informed consent as a fundamental part of their job. It was the idea of seeing this essential right removed — in some cases for themselves, in others for their colleagues — that had brought them out on this cold January afternoon.

The loss of staff represents more than just a decrease in numbers. In an organisation such as the NHS, doctors and nurses who hold onto these principles, despite the personal cost to themselves, are precious. The fact that their values are so important that they would face smears and criticism, or even leave their jobs, makes these employees the very people the NHS desperately needs to retain.

Perhaps Lucy, a student midwife, summed it up best: “Throughout our training we are taught bodily autonomy and consent is vital. I’m not sure I want to be part of an organisation that will discard that”.

Names of protesters have been changed on their request.

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Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
4 months ago

Speaking as one who’s been double jabbed and boosted, I’m 100% behind those who want to refuse the vaccine. It’s little short of appalling to me how few people seem to understand concepts like proportionality, fortitude, personal liberty and individual rights. From the 1960s onwards we’ve been dealing with the stupidest, least educated but most self-regarding population in history, and what we’ve gone through in the last two years is the logical consequence of three generations of such people.

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
4 months ago

Same here. I weighed up the evidence and decided that at my age, 69, the vaccines were the lesser evil. However I also believe that everyone should have the right to make their own decision.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
4 months ago
Reply to  David Uzzaman

F*** No, I will not vax.

Unherd had a talk from the NHS Doctor who refused – he talked mostly about how mixed the effectiveness was, and how he had natural immunity… in other words, practical matters. For me it is the political matters. I saw how the governments took all freedoms they chose and just decreed them out of existence. I therefore refused to join in my oppression.

I refused the mask although it was much harder than complying as the indoors were 99% masked and one felt waves of disapproval as you moved about – but I hardened my self to it, a protest is hard, and you have to take the heat if you want to do it. The very rare unmasked – we glanced in each others eye and felt a brotherhood because we knew it was political.

ALL Medicines MUST give benefits and risk to have consent – this law, international law. Also all medicines must have ‘Informed Consent’. The vax gave neither. People were coerced into taking an unknown – which as VAERS shows, harms and kills very many indeed. This never mentioned. just the vax is ‘Safe and Effective’, of which it is neither.

But here is the thing, this excellent virologist says how repeated vaccines will desensitize your immune response – like how allergic reactions are treated by repeated exposure, (an allergic reaction is an immune response) so the body learns not to fight them. Third injections have a 10 week effectiveness, down from 25 for the first two – and the forth shows more get it than if they had not had it (Israel study) Constant boosters may make the immune system not respond to covid at all………..

Dr Campbell https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPPnyzvO7J4

Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
3 months ago

Thank you for your support for the unvaccinated . It is much appreciated and needed.

Philip L
Philip L
4 months ago

If the plague were as deadly as promised, and if the vaccines really did what was claimed, there’d be no need for mandates. That this nonsense has to be forced on good people with threats to their livelihood, and coerced via silly, unscientific everyday restrictions (all of which would have you believe natural immunity isn’t real), against a backdrop of our dumbass media stigmatising anyone and everyone who’s chosen not to have their arm twisted, tells you everything.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
4 months ago
Reply to  Philip L

It is not about the letters spelling ‘covid’ But about the letters ‘WEF, IMF, WHO that the vax is all about.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
4 months ago

Well said Amy.
From my own perspective as somebody who was doubly vaxxed back in Feb 2021, if I weren’t vaxxed already I sure wouldn’t be rushing to get vaxxed now. The reason is very simple. The spike protein of the predominant variant, Omicron, is so far removed from that of the original Wuhan virus, that the current crop of vaccines is basically useless. To put it another way: if the current crop of vaccines would come up for Emergency Use Authorization right now they wouldn’t get it.
Now in terms of healthcare workers and NHS staff I could understand a mandate if the vaccines prevented transmission, and therefore vaccination of NHS staff served to protect patients. But right now, the current vaccines neither prevent infection, nor transmission, even in the boosted (and the 1st booster is only good for about 6 weeks, and the 4th booster as per the data in Israel is completely pointless and useless). So I fail to see any logical, medical or scientific rational for mandating covid vaccination of NHS staff with the current vaccines at this time. It just makes no sense, and why take the risk of a potential severe, and even life threatening adverse reaction for nothing. The risk/benefit ratio is simply not in favor of vaccination right now, especially in the young and healthy. And further, the mandate takes no account of natural immunity from those NHS staff who were previously infected and survived – that’s also critical given that natural immunity is well over an order of magnitude more effective than any of the vaccines (not that that should be a surprise to anybody who knows anything about immunology and vaccinology)
Further, the current Omicron variant is for the most part rather mild and really no different from a bad cold (something we should be really thankful for, but for some reason many Governments simply wish to prolong the covid hysteria and panic). Would we, as a society, mandate vaccination for a cold. The answer is obviously no. Not only is the risk/benefit ratio not in favor of such a vaccination program (if one could even be developed), but one could very well argue that it would be detrimental to the proper functioning of our immune systems. After all, our immune systems need to be constantly challenged to function properly – in other words use it or lose it.

Last edited 4 months ago by Johann Strauss
Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
4 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The government has spent millions on Pfizer & Moderna vaccines, they don’t want them to rot in some cupboard.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

No question about that. But better have them rot than do additional damage in the form of severe adverse reactions. Even if rare, if one happens to get such a reaction it is very significant and life altering.

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
4 months ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

I seem to recall (fake or true?) that the agreements between government and vaccine manufacturers require the product to each be injected into arms – not just purchased. I recall someone in the Bulgarian government producing the agreement without redaction…
I’m fully vaccinated (whatever that means, currently) and feel strongly about the right to decide – never government-mandated, never coerced. What happens if “they” are right and “we” are wrong, in years to come, product defects etc.

Last edited 4 months ago by Justin Clark
Andrea Re
Andrea Re
4 months ago

Excellent article.

Louis S
Louis S
4 months ago

and where on earth are the unions when it comes to such important issues such as mandated medicine??

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
4 months ago
Reply to  Louis S

wrong types of unions, I assume

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
4 months ago
Reply to  Louis S

Police and Fire unions are anti vax in USA. Teachers Unions are Communists and so are for any excuse to make the children more ignorant by closing schools – and pro vax as it is another loved tyranny the government may oppress the free people with.

Bella OConnell
Bella OConnell
3 months ago
Reply to  Louis S

Thankfully UNITE, in their latest email, have said that while they strongly advise getting vaccinated they will fully support unvaccinated workers rights, and if any get threatened with dismissal they will be there for them. I think this union scenario is likely to play out in many industries over the coming months. Let’s hope the unions can work together on this. How effective they will be remains to be seen, since clearly, UNITE at least, strongly support the vaccination hype.

William Shaw
William Shaw
4 months ago

There’s an easy out for Johnson, and no reason he shouldn’t take it now that restrictions are being relaxed.
Meet personally with representative from the NHS. Not the Union, the actual nurses and doctors. Listen to what they have to say. And then cancel the vaccine mandate citing the importance of bodily autonomy as the reason.
Labour will claim u-turn, but patients will benefit and Johnson can claim the moral high ground.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
4 months ago

Good article. I am vehemently pro-vax because of the role vaccination has undoubtedly played and continues to play in converting the pandemic into an epidemic. To this purpose, I am myself fully vaccinated and boosted.
I am just as vehemently anti-vax-mandate, for two reasons:-
(1) The ethics of bodily autonomy.
(2) The practicalities of replacing 73,000 NHS vax-refuseniks.
Vaccine coverage should be achieved by rational persuasion, not compulsion. Equally, since the purpose of vaccination is the provision of antibodies, those already with antibodies have a sound rationale for refusing vaccination, which ought to be acknowledged and respected.

Last edited 4 months ago by Drahcir Nevarc
Philip L
Philip L
4 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Other than a small bump when the madness kicked off, and another over winter, the covid mortality rate for under-60s in England has been hugging zero the entire time.
An untested treatment with no long term safety profile should *never* have been pushed on those who were minimum risk in the first place, and there is no need need for “national persuasion” because the cat is out of the bag, through the flap and wrapped round the wheels of a passing Transmit on the matter of transmission anyway.
National persuasion could only take the form of prolonged and frankly damaging public health coercion; we’re into our third year of being badgered already and many folks have just stopped listening. That is an impending health crisis in itself.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 months ago
Reply to  Philip L

My phrase was “rational persuasion”, not “national persuasion”. Stop trying to make me sound even weirder than I am.

Bella OConnell
Bella OConnell
3 months ago
Reply to  Philip L

Agreed. However, please let’s all shout about co-morbidities a great deal more than we are doing when discussing any Covid health issue. Any age cut off, especially when 60 is mentioned, makes me unhappy…..I am 59 and fully unvaccinated. If diet, exercise and improved lifestyle choices were mentioned as often as the vaccinations we may just go some way towards a healthier and happier future.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
4 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

In 1957, when a very, very, bad flue emerged (0.5% Mortality!) a working vaccine from virus grown in eggs – as all used to be made, was available in 5 Months!!! Attenuated virus, grow them in eggs and kill them and inject them. This mRNA one took twice as long, 65 years later….

Andrea Re
Andrea Re
4 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Your two points are not necessarily at odds. Had the “vaccine” be like, say, the one for measles or smallpox, then it would make sense to get it and probably to mandate it as you would end up eradicating the disease, and perhaps those “radical antivax” in the NHS would have been a fair price to pay, but with covid and the actual “vaccine” all this noise makes no sense whatsoever. I am still to understand what there is to be gained by forcing people to get the vaccine.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
4 months ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

All vaccinations are not equal.

James Joyce
James Joyce
4 months ago

Ah, more tosh from Anonymous Amy! Lovely to be able to hide behind a fake name and pontificate on all things great and small. Well, NHS Doctor X did the same. Oh, wait, he didn’t, actually, it was Dr. Steve James, and he spoke on the record. Maybe Anonymous Amy lacks the testosterone necessary to speak on the record? Maybe she needs to “grow a pair?” I don’t like Anonymous Amy’s writing much–she seems to have a profound grasp of the obvious–but I truly hate her hiding. Am I the only one?
As posted elsewhere, I came of age during the Age of AIDS, especially the early days. The “left” then emphasized bodily autonomy, and the idea that society would show our personal health information to random strangers was anathema. Our law professors said they as lawyers and we as future lawyers must resist this stratification of society at all costs–this was a line in the sand.
Not that many decades out, “the left” is lining up to genuflect to “the man” and show personal health data to any random stranger–the bus driver, the barber, the bartender–because it shows how good and virtuous one is.
I’ve been double jabbed, boosted, and throw in a flu shot as a chaser, but I don’t demand that of anyone else. Your decision–not my business. And what if being “fully vaccinated” requires a new jab every 3 months? Every month? Even I have limits!

Justin Clark
Justin Clark
4 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

“…a lifetime subscription for a commercial product no longer wanted, yet injected four times a year”… yep!

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
4 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Why so rancorous? Anonymous Amy evidently agrees with you.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
4 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Do you know it was Fauci who killed the thousands and thousands of AIDS sufferers? He held the same position as now! He then required NO other treatement could be used except AZT – just like he outlawed Ivermectin, Fluvoxamine and HCQ. Google the story – he is Evil.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
4 months ago

By any definition, the Covid Vaccine is not a vaccine. It seems that the proponents of the ‘vaccine’ believe it is, those against mandates know it is not.

stephen archer
stephen archer
4 months ago
Reply to  Peter Lee

Well it is now according to the FDA web page for vaccines where they have recently added a section for mRNA vaccines alongside the formal definition, which is as you state. I wonder how much coercion was involved in the change of content to the page?

jules Ritchie
jules Ritchie
3 months ago

I’m so tired of reading and hearing about ‘boosters’. They are not that, they are a 3rd jab with the same vax.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
4 months ago

A time when there is widespread unhappiness in the NHS, with a survey in October 2021 showing three-quarters of staff had considered leaving in the past 12 months.
There are a lot of vacancies in our industry. Standard salary 24K pa but with opportunities for overtime, hard physical work in the cold and wet, 25 days holiday and no pension to speak of.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
3 months ago

Every year the NHS staff survey used to show that at least 30% were hacked off and about 25% were thinking of leaving. Easy to put that on your anonymised annual return or say it to your RCN rep, less easy to ditch the pension and your career for a lively new job with a ZHC driving parcels around for Space Commander Bezos.

Keith Dudleston
Keith Dudleston
4 months ago

Does anybody know the relative risk reduction (of a COVID infection) if your NHS worker is vaccinated?

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
3 months ago

Right now: ZERO.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 months ago

Amazing to even have a mandate given the circumstances that are now obvious. The vaccines do not prevent infection, spread or further mutation thus to pretend staff need to be vaccinated to protect patients is theater – a power play. Worse the vaccines are quite ineffective against Omicron.

Antony Hirst
Antony Hirst
4 months ago

What? NHS Workers don’t want the vaccine? It isn’t anti-vaxx, it is more nuanced when they complain about it.
Next tonight, soldiers demonstrate against mandatory guns claiming it could make them a target.

Last edited 4 months ago by Antony Hirst
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
4 months ago
Reply to  Antony Hirst

More like they demand Russian Roulette is played with a 6 shot revolver than a semi-automatic pistol.

Ricki Tarr
Ricki Tarr
4 months ago

I accept that the vaccine does not necessarily stop one from being infected and infectious with Covid-19. And, forcing people to take it seems against freedom of choice regarding one’s own body. However, given the weight of evidence that the vaccine vastly reduces one’s own likelihood of getting seriously ill or dying, I’m not sure I want a medical professional looking after me who thinks it’s a good idea not to take the vaccine.

Last edited 4 months ago by Ricki Tarr
Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
3 months ago
Reply to  Ricki Tarr

The problem is that even your assumption that the vaccine reduces disease severity (i.e. getting seriously ill or dying) is not so clear cut given how the numbers have been manipulated. Moreover, the vaccines are completely ineffective against the current Omicron variant, as are the monoclonal antibodies which were selected against the original spike protein. Given that the latter have been specifically selected as they were highly neutralizing, it makes no sense to think that the antibodies elicited by the spike protein synthesized via the vaccine would do any better.

Ricki Tarr
Ricki Tarr
3 months ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

The effectiveness of the vaccine in reducing major illness is OBVIOUS! Fewer people dying and fewer people in hospital than pre-vaccination waves…or have those numbers been “manipulated”?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
4 months ago

As T.Dalrymple says, the only people who really have motivation to go to work are the self-employed.

IF vaccination cuts time off work and I was self-employed I would get vaxxed.

If, on the other hand, I was a government employee, I would want to get as much time off as possible (as well as suffering from mental problems from my illness). So I would resist vaccination.

Last edited 4 months ago by Chris Wheatley
Mel Bass
Mel Bass
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I think you’ll find that the shysters have already made use of ‘long covid’, rather than worrying about vaccination status. In my neck of the woods, it’s the instant diagnosis for anyone who phones their GP with almost anything, regardless of whether they’ve ever tested positive or had covid symptoms. Of course, there are many genuine cases, but it’s an automatic sicknote for anyone who wants to play the system – and I know a couple who are milking it to the limit.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
4 months ago

Looking at the replies to the article, it seems as if the majority here are in accord with it, NHS workers shouldn’t be forced to accept the vaccine.
Am I really a lone voice, thinking that the NHS staff Should have the vaccine, and if they refuse because of principle, they should resign and leave the NHS. ?
If you are Joe, or Jane, Bloggs and don’t want to take the vaccine, fine, I have no problem, if somebody wants to take a principled stand for something they firmly believe in,
However, it seems a little hypocritical to work for an organisation which promotes a message of vaccine take up in the general population, TO PROTECT THE NHS, as one of it’s stated aims, to then refuse the vaccine if you work for that organisation. What the hell sort of a message does that send out ?
Sometimes, just sometimes, you have to set high minded principles or personal safety aside for wider society. If they can’t stomach it then they should do the correct thing and leave. It really isn’t difficult. It seems thought that the non-vaccinated staff want THEIR cake and eat it.

diana cook
diana cook
4 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Make them have the vaccine: it’s not fair on the very vulnerable who visit hospital regularly and who expect that staff will have taken all precautions to prevent being infectious.

Matt Cronin
Matt Cronin
4 months ago
Reply to  diana cook

But what if there aren’t any precautions? Or to put it better, what if the supposed precautions are woefully unreliable, or don’t work at all?
I think the point being missed here is the vaccine might, *might*, reduce your chances of getting infected in the first place (the clinical trials didn’t test for that), and if you are infected, they don’t stop you from transmitting it (the clinical trials didn’t test for that either). Plus, as was mentioned above, the spike proteins the injections teaches you to make, are for a variant from 2 years ago, so what difference does it make any more?
Even then, and if you go to hospital and catch it (as nearly half do) how do you know where you caught it? From the nurse? From the porter? From the receptionist? From the family member who drove them there? From the random person they walked past in the corridor?
It’s the same with any of these diseases, and only a fool, or a politician it seems, would think they can control the spread of respiratory viruses.

jules Ritchie
jules Ritchie
3 months ago
Reply to  diana cook

You can read studies all over the internet now telling us that the vaxed and the unvaxed are equally transmitting disease. Read up on it.
Even the Govt is saying that a 3rd vax is to protect you, the injected, not another person.

Sally Owen
Sally Owen
3 months ago
Reply to  diana cook

Even if they have the vaccine they can still pass it on and get it.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
4 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Perhaps, on the whole, they are satisfied with their jobs, but just don’t like being forced to take a jab. Seems a bit extreme to just walk away from a job you like just because your employer does something you don’t agree with.

Helen Murray
Helen Murray
4 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

The vaccines are not completely safe, officially recorded deaths in UK 73 from micro clotting in the brain. People have had severe ongoing adverse reactions from the vaccines. Now they may be a tiny proportion, but where there is a risk there has always been a choice. The immunity from vaccines wears off in weeks and those who are vaccinated can pass on the virus. Exemption from getting virus so strict that even those with previous history of myocarditis are not exempt. Mandates are so wrong. There are no mandates in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, is it a different virus there perhaps? I am an allied health professional working in the NHS who has been vaccinated.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
4 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

as taking the vax if naturally immune is pointless at best, and taking a risk as well – why should they take it for practical reasons?

As being forced the vax goes against the Nuremberg Code, and against ALL law, and Freedoms, and even pushing vax goes directly against the Hippocratic Oath…. ‘and I will do no harm or injustice to them’

AND

“Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 2.1.1Informed consent to medical treatment is fundamental in both ethics and law. Patients have the right to receive information and ask questions about recommended treatments so that they can make well-considered decisions about care. Successful communication in the patient-physician relationship fosters trust and supports shared decision making.”

So – were you informed of the side effects possible? Of what is in it? Of what testing it has had? Then given the chance to think of it all, and walk away if you wish?

Bella OConnell
Bella OConnell
3 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Well said. The legality of all of this stinks.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
4 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

What exactly is the reasoning behind this? You know you are blowing smoke. The vaccine is non sterilising, people can transmit the virus after vaccination, the efficacy wanes as fast as a rabbit disappears into a burrow, vaccines have a poor safety record and Covid is not a threat to the young.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Think for a moment about the consequences for the rest of us of sacking 73,000 NHS staff who refuse to get vaxxed.