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Unvaccinated staff create challenge for GHA, Bhatti says

Photo by Eyleen Gomez

Vaccination could be introduced for incoming health and care staff in future, Director of Public Health, Dr Sohail Bhatti said this week, as he stressed the difficulties of having unvaccinated staff when providing care for the vulnerable.

Currently, vaccination is not a requirement for health and care workers in Gibraltar, but Dr Bhatti said this could be looked at in future.

He described how there have been professionals, and professions as a whole in the GHA, that have not been enthusiastic about vaccination during this pandemic.

But he highlighted the need for those caring for the most vulnerable in the community to have that protection.

"It's throwing up some real challenges because our policy is to protect our patients, they are first and foremost," he said.

"It's a real challenge if you are working with really immunosuppressed people or elderly people, at the moment the requirement is to wear PPE to protect the patient as well as yourself."

"One thing we may look at is if things get implemented in the UK, that's a political decision as much as a medical one. From a medical point of view, one thing we mustn't do is do harm to people and I understand some people feel there is a potential harm from a vaccine."

"But all I can say is the harm from the actual virus hugely outweighs the harm from any vaccine."

Dr Bhatti said that health and care workers have a principal duty to protect the people that they are meant to look after.

He thinks future training programmes will ask about trainees’ vaccination status.

"We can't unilaterally change people's terms and conditions of employment," Dr Bhatti said.

"What we would love to do is continue to educate and inform, and at some point we're going to have to try to remove the risk as well."

He added: "There may be other roles people can take on, but I think it would be increasingly difficult for people who are not immunised to work with people who are vulnerable.”

“That will be an individual choice, but that will also be an employer choice that needs to be made and managed."

"Very, very difficult. I do accept it’s very difficult and I wouldn't want to remove anyone’s freedom of choice."

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