COVID-19 vaccinations should not be mandatory for health and care staff, RPS tells government

In response to a government consultation, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has maintained that COVID-19 vaccines should be optional for health and care staff, after a survey of members revealed “no significant majority for or against” mandatory vaccination.
Royal Pharmaceutical Society headquarters on East Smithfield, east London

Vaccinations for COVID-19 should not be mandatory for health and care staff in England, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said, in response to a government consultation on the issue.

Submitting its response to the consultation, which closed on 22 October 2021, the Society said that a “snapshot” survey of members, run jointly with the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK), showed “no significant majority for or against” the position.

There were 2,211 respondents to the survey, of whom 186 (8%) were pharmacy technicians. When asked about COVID-19 vaccination for health and care staff, 53% of respondents said it should be mandatory, just under a third (31%) “strongly encouraged” vaccination and 16% said it should be optional.

The RPS’s current position is that COVID-19 vaccinations should not be mandatory for pharmacists, “as informed and educated choices about health interventions would be more beneficial long-term than enforcing them”.

As there was “no overwhelming majority either way” in the survey responses, the RPS said that the results — together with its “further engagement with the profession and other considerations including the unintended consequence of enforcing vaccination” — led it to believe that its current position should stand.

Data published by APTUK show that among the 186 pharmacy technicians who responded to the survey, 45.2% said COVID-19 vaccination should be mandatory.

In a statement published on behalf of APTUK’s executive committee, Liz Fidler, president of APTUK, said that “pharmacy technicians have a professional responsibility to support and protect our patients, communities and staff by being vaccinated unless there is a medical reason why they are unable to”, but added that APTUK “do not believe that mandating the vaccine will increase uptake and are concerned this could pose a risk to the workforce”.

The RPS said in its consultation response that “all members of the pharmacy team should have any vaccine deemed necessary to help protect themselves, their patients and the wider community”, adding that it would “consider this to be best practice and part of pharmacists professional responsibility within the GPhC [General Pharmaceutical Council] standards for pharmacy professionals where pharmacists should make the care of the patient their first concern and act in their best interests”.

The Society’s stance is similar to that of the Royal College of Nursing, which said in a position statement, published on 22 September 2021, that it had “significant concerns that mandating vaccines will further marginalise those who are currently vaccine hesitant and put further pressure on a hugely depleted workforce by forcing people out of employment”.

At its annual representative meeting on 13–14 September 2021, the British Medical Association backed a motion that “all doctors should be vaccinated against COVID-19, unless there is a medical contraindication”.

The RPS survey also found that 36% of respondents backed mandatory flu vaccinations for healthcare staff, with 44% saying it should be strongly encouraged and 20% favouring it as optional.

Read more: Everything you need to know about COVID-19 vaccines

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, October 2021, Vol 307, No 7954;307(7954)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.112382

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