23 September 2021

Government consultation on mandatory vaccinations for health and social care workers in England

The Department of Health and Social Care is consulting on proposals for mandatory COVID-19 and flu vaccinations for all frontline health and social care workers in England.

This proposal currently applies to optometrists working in Care Quality Commission (CQC) registered settings (e.g. NHS hospitals and private medical practices). However, given the critical role optometrists continue to play in delivering eye care during the pandemic, it is likely that any decision to implement the proposals will eventually be applied to optometry across all settings, including primary care.

The safety of patients, optometrists and their colleagues has always been our priority and we ensured that primary care optometrists and practice staff were included as a priority group for the COVID-19 vaccine roll out. The pandemic has seriously affected the provision of eye care, and focused attention on the need to maintain stringent infection and prevention control measures, including access to recommended vaccinations, to protect patients and practice staff from harm. We strongly encourage all optometrists and their colleagues to have all recommended vaccines, unless they are medically exempt.

However, the College does not support mandatory vaccinations as a condition of deployment in healthcare settings. We believe that vaccine uptake will be maximized where optometrists and practice staff are supported to make their own decisions, having been provided with clear, evidence-based information on the benefit and value of vaccinations. Read the College and ABDO’s position on mandatory vaccinations here.

The consultation is open for 6 weeks and we would like to include members’ views in our response. If you would like to share your views on the proposal with the College, please contact us at policy@college-optometrists.org.

Related further reading

As society continues to open up, the Optometry in Practice editorial board thought it opportune to reflect on the experiences of the pandemic to date and assess the impact on both eyecare professionals and our patients.

It is rare for respiratory viruses to cause eye infections, writes Kim Thomas, but they may use the eye as a portal of entry. And what is the mechanism behind their travel to the respiratory system?

How do clinicians choose between generic and branded drugs, balancing the need for patient safety against cost? Kathy Oxtoby takes a look.