According to the BBC, ministers are no longer considering making it mandatory for university students in England to be fully vaccinated against Covid in order to attend lectures.
The foreign secretary previously stated that students would be given “advance notice” if they needed to be injected twice. Beginning in September, the government intends to require two jabs before entering nightclubs and other crowded places. More than 72% of UK adults have had two doses so far, while 88.5% have had one.
When asked about it earlier this week, neither education minister Vicky Ford nor Downing Street ruled out making vaccines mandatory for university students, whether they attend lectures or live in halls of residence. When asked if students returning to halls of residence would be required to get vaccinated, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said a decision would be made in September.
“We will certainly make sure university students have advance warning, of course we’re going to be mindful of this,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday.
According to the BBC, the idea of requiring students in England to show proof of vaccination in order to attend lectures or live in halls of residence has been dropped. According to BBC political correspondent Peter Saull, there are two main reasons why the government has backed down on this.
“The first is logistics – how on earth could universities police this? And there were potentially some legal questions too because when you get an offer of a university place, that is considered to be legally binding,” our correspondent said.
“But also I think ministers are keenly aware that unease is growing in the Conservative backbenches about this wider issue of vaccine passports.”
The governments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are responsible for their own coronavirus regulations and education policies. Unions have been vocal in their opposition to making vaccines mandatory for university students. The University and College Union previously said this would be wrong and “hugely discriminatory against those who are unable to be vaccinated” as well as for international students.
And the National Union of Students had called the idea “appalling”, accusing the government of “lining students up as scapegoats”. Both Labour and leading universities have called for vaccination clinics to be established on college campuses so that students can be immunized before the winter.
The Russell Group, which consists of the top universities in the United Kingdom, has offered its own spaces and facilities for use as pop-up centers. All over-18s in the UK have now been offered a first dose of a Covid vaccine, with a second dose available eight weeks later. This means that the government anticipates that by the end of September, all adults will have had the opportunity to receive both vaccines.
However, according to the most recent NHS England data, 32% of 18 to 29-year-olds in England had not received their first dose by July 25. Ministers have stated that from the end of September, people will be required to show proof of full vaccination to enter nightclubs and other crowded venues in England.
The full details of the plan have yet to be revealed, but an NHS Covid Pass, which can be obtained electronically or in the form of a letter, will be used as proof. Meanwhile, NHS England said in a letter sent to GPs last week that those who were three months away from turning 18 could get their first jab right away.
Families, however, have criticized the guidance, which also advises doctors not to begin vaccinating clinically vulnerable children against Covid-19 because they may not be covered by insurance.
According to some doctors, it has resulted in mixed messages and confusion. More information would be provided soon, according to the document.
Earlier this month, the government’s vaccine advisers recommended giving the Pfizer vaccine to children in England, which includes approximately 150,000 12-15-year-olds who are most vulnerable. In response, the NHS stated that there would be “no delay” in vaccinating children of this age group, and that they would be given their first dose before the start of the school year. According to the letter to GPs, a national indemnity contract will be announced soon.
In other news, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has warned employers that rules requiring full vaccination of employees must not be disproportionate or discriminatory.
The rights watchdog acknowledged that employers will want to protect their employees and customers by requiring vaccinations, but advised them to consider other factors. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has previously suggested that people be double-jabbed before returning to work, but legislation would not mandate it.
According to the CIPD, the trade body for human resource professionals, while employers have a duty of care to their employees, they cannot force them to get the vaccine. According to government figures released on Saturday, a further 26,144 coronavirus cases have been recorded in the UK, with another 71 deaths occurring within 28 days of a positive test.