Healthcare workers who felt under pressure from their employer to receive the Covid-19 vaccine were more likely to refuse it, research has shown.
The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, was led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropic Medicine in collaboration with the NHS Race and Health Observatory, Public Health England and the RCN. It surveyed 1,917 health and social care workers including 572 nurses and midwives.
Participants were asked to judge on a four-point scale how pressured they felt from their employer to get a Covid vaccine. For each additional point of agreement on the scale, they were 75% more likely to have declined the vaccination, the study found.
The findings suggested pressure from an employer only eroded trust, negatively impacted relationships at work and even hardened stances on declining the Covid vaccine. Healthcare workers instead told the researchers they wanted to be able to ask about the jab without feeling judged.
Lead author Dr Sadie Bell argued that the findings ‘emphasise the importance of Covid-19 vaccination remaining voluntary’ and that employers need to ‘offer a space for their staff to have “conversations” where they feel safe to ask about Covid-19 vaccination.’
The findings are supported by recent NHS guidance on supporting vaccine uptake among staff that recommends a ‘supportive and sensitive one-to-one conversation with staff members’.
Unvaccinated study participants also shared concerns with researchers their refusal would impact their job security. This pressure was exacerbated among social care workers after hearing the Government or their employers may make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for staff.
In addition, black African or mixed black African participants were around twice as likely not to be offered the Covid-19 vaccine as white British or Irish participants, which they said ‘is difficult to explain and requires further investigation’.
Social care workers were around 50% more likely not to be offered the vaccine than healthcare workers, which the study authors said was likely linked to organisational structure and the nature of job roles.
RCN professional lead for public health Helen Donovan said: ‘As this evidence shows, there are better ways to improve vaccine uptake in staff who have concerns than mandating them. These include support from experienced peers who we know instil confidence in their colleagues.
‘We also know that making sure the vaccines are easily accessible during the working day is an essential part of improving uptake. Being vaccine hesitant doesn’t mean people will never get the vaccine which is why supportive conversations are also key.’