How is the UK’s COVID vaccination programme progressing?
At the time of writing, government vaccination statistics showed that over 32.8 million people have had a first dose of a COVID vaccine in the UK and over 9.9 million people have been fully vaccinated with 2 doses.
In England, the Coronavirus vaccine programme is currently open to people aged over 45 as well as other groups such as those who are clinically vulnerable, carers, health and social care workers, care home residents and workers and those with a learning disability.
Do I need a COVID test if I’ve had the vaccine?
Vaccines do not offer 100% protection therefore it is possible that you can still get or spread COVID-19 after vaccination. This is the case whether you have had 1 or 2 doses of the vaccine which is why current government advice is that you should continue to be tested whether you have been vaccinated or not.
It is also worth considering that it can take a number of weeks after having the vaccine for your body to build up some protection to COVID-19. Because of the current advice from the government and PHE that even if you have been vaccinated you should continue to be tested, you should continue to book a PCR test through NHS Test and Trace if you display COVID-19 symptom or engage with rapid lateral flow asymptomatic testing if you don’t display symptoms.
As there is still more to find out about the impact of vaccines on the spread of COVID-19, it is also advised that those who have been vaccinated should continue to adhere to all of the guidance and rules around minimising the spread of COVID-19 including:
- Social distancing rules
- The use of a face covering where mandated
Those who have been vaccinated must also continue to adhere to current lockdown rules.
Do employees still need to engage with workplace COVID testing schemes if they have been vaccinated?
As above, even if employees have been vaccinated it is still important that they continue to engage with COVID testing schemes to help stop the spread of the virus.
- Through NHS Test and Trace if they develop COVID-19 symptoms
- Through asymptomatic COVID testing schemes. If your business has set up a workplace COVID-19 testing scheme vaccinated employees can continue to access this. Or if your business has not set up its own scheme then you can direct employees in England to order rapid flow tests via the gov.uk website
Could vaccinations become mandatory in the workplace?
It very much remains to be seen whether COVID-19 vaccinations become mandatory in the workplace. Currently vaccine uptake in the UK is not compulsory in the general population and it is highly unlikely to become so. Although, at the time of writing the uptake of the COVID vaccine is 94% in England and Scotland, slightly lower in Wales and Northern Ireland but still encouragingly high overall.
If not mandatory in the general population it is difficult to see COVID-19 vaccinations becoming mandatory in all workplaces. However, there has been discussion about some workplaces potentially introducing vaccine requirements such as care homes where those being looked after are highly vulnerable to the Coronavirus. A consultation on this issue is currently being led by the government.
Whilst there are a number of legal issues linked to making vaccinations mandatory in the workplace there are also health and safety laws and a duty of care which employers must adhere to when it comes to reducing workplace risks. These areas are highlighted by this employers guide to preparing for the COVID-19 vaccination from the CIPD.