Coronavirus: Should the UK make vaccination compulsory? | Vaccines and vaccination | News Today

Coronavirus: Should the UK make vaccination compulsory? | Vaccines and vaccination

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In Italy, it is now mandatory for people aged 50 or over to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Greece is considering a similar approach. In France, which has recorded a record number of positive cases, President Emmanuel Macron has also announced that he wants to “piss off” the unvaccinated, while Austria is considering a law to make the vaccine compulsory for all its citizens. On the other hand, in the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson has confined himself to accusing anti-vaccines of speaking of “gibberish”.

But is it enough? Should the UK be tougher on those who refuse to get vaccinated? After all, it is a virus that threatens to overwhelm the NHS. As doctors continue to point out, hospital beds are now filling more and more critically ill Covid patients, many of whom are unvaccinated. So, should we make Covid vaccines mandatory, not only in certain workplaces but for all individuals?

Why make Covid vaccines compulsory?

Most British scientists believe that a growing number of people vaccinated will provide a major boost to efforts to limit hospitalizations due to serious complications from Covid. However, many question the wisdom of doing so by making vaccination mandatory. The problem is summed up by vaccine expert Peter English.

“Unvaccinated people are much more likely to fall ill and consume disproportionate health resources. A single case of Covid-19 requiring admission to an intensive care unit can block a bed that could be used for many critical operations, ”he told the Observer. “However, the backlash that could arise as a result of compulsory vaccination – which is not part of our culture, unlike Italy – could mean even fewer people showing up for vaccination, so it is not something thing I would recommend. “

What vaccines are compulsory in the UK?

The answer to this question is simple, said Professor Helen Bedford, an expert in child health, University College London. “We are not imposing any vaccines in the UK. We recommend that people have certain vaccines and advise parents to have their children vaccinated against certain diseases, but we do not impose this in law. In fact, the only vaccine we ever imposed in Britain was smallpox and legislation requiring its use was repealed in the 1940s.

“However, other countries have more of a tradition of mandatory vaccinations. For example, Italy now has a total of 10 compulsory vaccines. “

Unvaccinated people are more likely to fall ill and consume disproportionate health resources.
Unvaccinated people are more likely to fall ill and consume disproportionate health resources. Photograph: David Levene / the Guardian

What was the impact of the Omicron variant, which is easier to catch but is considered less likely to cause serious illness?

That’s a key question, said psychologist Marie Juanchich of the University of Essex. “I believe Omicron is making a difference. People feel a little more secure with it. It can spread very quickly, but its severity is perceived to be lower. People are much more concerned about the severity of an illness and less concerned about the infectivity of the virus that causes it. “

This point is supported by psychologist Simon Williams at Swansea University. “There is now a widespread perception that Omicron is gentler and I think a lot of people have understood that to mean they don’t have to worry about it and don’t adjust their behavior,” he said. -he declares.

One particular issue was the uptake of the booster vaccine last month, which was aided by the public’s desire not to disrupt the holiday season with the virus. The fact that that risk has passed may have removed some of the willingness to take the vaccine, Williams added. “One of the things we’ve come across is a factor we call ‘variant fatigue’, which translates into people saying, ‘Oh, here we go, a new variant. This is what viruses do; we just need to get on with our lives. It’s not great from a public health point of view.

So how should we improve vaccination rates against Covid-19?

A big problem is differentiating between a hard-core anti-vaxxer and someone who has lingering doubts about getting a vaccine, Bedford said. “If you group them together, you will miss the opportunity to persuade those who have genuine concerns but who might change their mind and get vaccinated.

“We have to reach people in the latter category, even if it takes time and resources. Some GPs have called all their unvaccinated patients for a chat and it has proven to be effective. However, it is hard work. It does not have to be a doctor either, it can be a religious leader or a community leader.

“Certainly from my own experience I find that if you actually sit down with a skeptic and listen to what their concern is and respond appropriately, very often you can encourage them to get the vaccine. Certainly, I don’t think we should be thinking about making or making a vaccine mandatory. “

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