Consider mandatory vaccinations for care home staff, experts say
Friday, 19 February 2021
If awareness-raising is not enough to convince residential care centre staff to be vaccinated, Belgium should consider making it mandatory, according to the GEMS expert group advising the government.
If awareness-raising fails, “consideration can be given to making vaccination compulsory for all care staff without medical contraindication,” the experts wrote in a report on residential care centres of 16 February that De Standaard saw.
“Forcing people carries a risk, but at the same time, those who work with the elderly also bear a responsibility,” confirmed biostatistician Geert Molenberghs, who is a member of the GEMS, on Flemish radio on Friday morning.
“An obligation should not be a taboo. Therefore, we have neatly listed the pros and cons,” he added.
In the report, experts point to the fact that other vaccines, such as the one against hepatitis B, are already mandatory for healthcare personnel.
However, the experts also question whether it is ethical to oblige a group to be vaccinated, when many people in society would very much like the vaccine but do not yet have access to it.
Additionally, research shows that people are less willing to be vaccinated if they feel pressure, according to the report, and an obligation would not help the confidence in vaccines among the population.
The only solution, according to Vincent Frédéricq of Femarbe, is mandatory vaccination. “Otherwise you risk endangering new residents, or staff dropping out due to illness, even though they could have been vaccinated.”
“I don’t understand,” he said. “In April, residential care centres went through a nightmare, and now that a solution is being offered, so many staff members are refusing to take it.”