A social care leader has urged the minority of vaccine-sceptic care workers in Wales to get fully jabbed as a matter of urgency.
According to Mario Kreft MBE, it was a “life or death” decision because of the potential dangers posed by the newly-identified Omicron super variant of Covid-19.
The new variant was first reported in South Africa last Wednesday and the early evidence suggests it has a higher re-infection risk.
Experts warn that it appears to spread “very rapidly” and that it can be spread between people who are double vaccinated.
It’s feared the vaccines could be less effective against the new variant, although partially or fully jabbed people were less likely to be become seriously ill.
Mr Kreft is calling on care workers and other to go for their booster jab as soon as they are eligible.
Another concern for Care Forum Wales is that any increase in community transmission could trigger another “pingdemic”, leading to greater staff shortages at the time when the sector was already struggling.
Mr Kreft said: “Having a booster jab is the one thing that people can do to play their part to combat this horrible super variant.
“Our staff have been heroic throughout the pandemic and they have risen magnificently to the unprecedented challenges of keeping people safe.
“This is the time when the whole community can do their bit but it’s especially important that people who work in care homes or in domiciliary care have their third jab.
“The reason it’s so important for people in social care to be triple jabbed is blindingly obvious because by definition they are looking after the most vulnerable people in society, those who more often than not have serious underlying health conditions that make them uniquely susceptible.
“Overwhelmingly, the staff working in social care have now had all the necessary jabs but there is still a small minority that have not been fully vaccinated or not vaccinated at all in some cases.
“It is their right not to be vaccinated but it’s now a real issue of concern with the new Omicron variant which appears to be so much more transmissible.
“It presents a whole set of new risks for care homes and domiciliary care so it’s imperative we all do the right thing.
“We’re now involved in a race against time against a new and potentially extremely dangerous super variant.
“We won’t know the full extent of the dangers for a few weeks but if we wait until then it could be too late and people will die. That’s the bottom line.
“I cannot stress enough how important this is – it could be a matter of life and death for the incredibly vulnerable people for whom we provide care and for our staff too.
“In the meantime, the scientific advice is clear and unequivocal – we need to vaccinate vulnerable people and those close to them.
“Even people who have been double jabbed may not be safe so having the booster will provide the best possible protection that’s currently available to us. The booster is the only game in town.
“The people at most risk are the unvaccinated and they are the ones most likely to spread the disease.
“We do not have any room for complacency so we need to do everything we can to ensure that the people who work with vulnerable people get the booster.
“The vaccine programme has been fantastic. Most people have got their residents boosted and the majority of staff have also had the third jab so that’s been a big success.
“It’s vitally important that those remaining people in care homes and domiciliary care workers who’ve been sceptical are encouraged to get their jabs.
“Everybody has now had the opportunity to be vaccinated so there is no excuse now not to have three jabs.”
“At the same time, we also need to ensure that we have adequate cover on the front line.
“The sector is already suffering from the worst staff shortage in living memory.
“The last thing we need now is to lose more care workers as a result of a new pingdemic.
“We need to devise a system to ensure that staff are not side-lined unnecessarily whilst keeping people safe.”