Compulsory vaccines for NHS staff raises human rights concerns - Michelle O'Neill
Vaccines will be mandatory for all healthcare workers in England from April onwards.
The deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill has expressed concern that mandatory vaccinations for NHS staff could raise potential human rights issues.
She made the comments after UK Health Minister Sajid Javid confirmed today (9 November) that vaccination will be required for healthcare staff in the UK from April 2022 onwards.
The deadline means that staff will require their first dose in the coming weeks to be considered fully vaccinated by April, or they may be dismissed from their jobs.
O'Neill said that while the proposal would be considered for staff in Northern Ireland as well, she would be in favour of vaccination on a voluntary basis instead.
“We’re yet to receive that advice from the Health Minister here, but certainly I will engage with him on the issue,” she said.
“I have always been someone who would be more of an advocate of encouraging uptake of the vaccine, educating people as to why it’s so important and I think those people that work in the health service obviously understand that more than most.
“So let’s have that conversation with the Health Minister and if he brings forward a proposal then I’ll obviously have to consider that.
“I think mandatory vaccines are obviously something that is always going to come with human rights concerns and others, so we have to take a decision based on having all that information," she concluded.
There are currently no legal requirements to ask for proof of vaccination in indoor settings such as restaurants, pubs, cinemas, or theatres in Northern Ireland, although the government strongly recommends that businesses do so.
Some opposition parties are calling for mandatory Covid vaccine passports to be brought in, including SDLP Deputy Leader Nichola Madden.
“We believe as a party that if we were to introduce the Covid certification in the hospitality settings we would see a significant increase in the level of uptake in vaccines particularly among the younger cohort, which we know is comparatively low when we look at other places.”