A recent study conducted by the University of Nottingham has found that the introduction of mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for care home workers in England in 2021 resulted in a significant reduction in staff numbers.
The research, which is the first empirical evidence of the impact of compulsory vaccination on care home staffing and mortality rates, was published in the journal Management Science.
Mandatory Vaccination Leads to Staffing Reduction
The study revealed that the legal requirement for health and social care staff to be vaccinated led to a 3-4% decrease in staffing levels, equivalent to a loss of 14,000 to 19,000 employees in elderly care homes across England.
This policy was announced in June 2021, with the final deadline for all workers to be fully vaccinated set for November 2021. However, this mandate was later revoked in March 2022.
Data Analysis and Findings
The researchers analyzed weekly data from March 2021 to March 2022, focusing on the percentage of unvaccinated elderly care home workers, the number of care home staff, and the number of COVID-19 related deaths among residents.
They found that the percentage of unvaccinated care workers dropped from 16% before the policy announcement to just 4% after its final implementation in November 2021. This meant that there were between 28,000 and 41,000 fewer unvaccinated staff working in care homes than if the mandate had not been implemented.
Stuart Bensusan, director of Surewise.com, comments:
“The strain on care workers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic was known to all in 2020, and yet the harmful impact of mandatory vaccinations has not been assessed nearly enough until now.
The loss of thousands of qualified, much-needed staff as a result of this policy only appears to have exacerbated the staffing crisis experienced amongst the care sector throughout the pandemic, potentially putting more elderly citizens in harms way than protecting them.”
The Cost of the Mandate on Staffing Levels
However, the researchers noted that this reduction in unvaccinated staff came at the cost of overall staffing levels. They estimated that the mandate led to a net reduction in staffing of between 14,000 and 19,000 employees, approximately 4% of the total workforce.
The researchers also observed an increase in the reliance on agency workers during this period.
Persisting Impact on Staffing Levels Post-Mandate
Even after the mandate was lifted, the impact on staffing levels persisted. For instance, by June 2022, the total number of employees in elderly residential care was still about 2% lower than just before the mandate was announced the previous year.
This recovery in staffing numbers was primarily driven by agency workers.
Global Perspective on Vaccine Mandates
Despite the end of the English vaccine mandate in spring 2022, formal mandates and employer-based restrictions are still prevalent in several countries, including the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
Experts’ Opinions on the Vaccine Mandate
Professor David Paton, Professor of Industrial Economics at the Nottingham University Business School, commented,
“Our research suggests the vaccine mandate exacerbated the staffing crisis in care homes by driving unvaccinated workers out of the sector. Even worse, we find no evidence that the mandate saved any lives at all.”
Professor Sourafel Girma, Professor of Industrial Economics at the University of Nottingham, added,
“The issue of COVID vaccination is particularly sensitive in the case of elderly care homes given the high vulnerability of residents to COVID-19. At the same time, if a mandate results in care workers being sacked or choosing to leave their job, it may contribute to staffing difficulties. Our research should help to inform politicians and managers in the care home sector about the value or otherwise of policies mandating vaccination for workers.”
The findings of this study raise significant questions about the effectiveness of states or employers insisting on COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment in the care sector.