Coronavirus: should the UK make vaccination mandatory?

It is now compulsory for people over the age of 50 to be vaccined. Greece is considering a similar move. In France, which has seen a record number of positive cases, the president has announced that he wants to "piss off" the unvaccinated, while Austria is considering a law to make the vaccine mandatory for all its citizens. Boris Johnson has accused anti-vaxxers of talkingumbo-jumbo in the UK.

Is that enough? Should the UK take a harder line on those who don't want to be shot? This is a virus that could cause a lot of problems. Many unvaccinated Covid patients are filling hospital beds as doctors point out. Is it possible to make vaccines against Covid mandatory for everyone?

Is it a good idea to make Covid vaccines mandatory?

Increasing numbers of vaccine users will give a boost to efforts to limit hospital stays from Covid problems. Many people don't like the idea of making vaccine mandatory. Peter English summed up the issue.

Unvaccinated people are more likely to become ill and consume disproportionate healthcare resources. He told the Observer that a single case of Covid-19 can block a bed that could be used for many critical operations. It is not something that I would recommend, as the backlash that could occur as a result of compulsory vaccination might mean even fewer people coming forward for vaccine, which is not part of our culture.

What vaccines are required in the UK?

The answer is simple, according to child health expert, Professor Helen Bedford. The UK does not mandate any vaccine. We don't enforce the advice to have certain vaccines for people and for parents to have their children vaccinations. In Britain, the only vaccine we have ever mandated is smallpox, which was repealed in the 1940s.

Other countries have more of a tradition for mandatory vaccinations. Italy now has 10 vaccines that are mandatory.

People who are unvaccinated are more likely to get sick. The Guardian has a photo of David Levene.

The Omicron variant is easier to catch but is less likely to cause serious illness.

Marie Juanchich said that this is a key question. I think Omicron is changing things. People feel safer with it. It may spread quickly but it is perceived to be less severe. People are more concerned about the severity of an illness and less about the infectiousness of the virus that causes it.

This point is supported by a psychologist. A lot of people think that Omicron is milder than it really is, and that they don't have to worry about it.

The take-up of the booster vaccine last month was a problem because of the public's wish not to disrupt the festive season with the virus. Williams said that the risk has passed, which might have made it harder to take up the vaccine. variant fatigue is a factor we call and it means people are saying: 'Oh, here we go again, a new variant.' We just need to get on with our lives. That is not good from a public health perspective.

How should we improve Covid-19 vaccination rates?

An important issue is to differentiate between a person who is anti-vaxx and someone who is not. If you lump them together, you won't be able to persuade those who have genuine concerns but who could change their minds and get vaccine.

It takes time and resources to get to the people in this category. Some GP's have been ringing up their unvaccinated patients to have a chat and it has worked out well. It is hard work. It doesn't have to be a doctor, it could be a religious leader.

If you sit down with a doubter, listen to what they have to say, and respond appropriately, you can encourage them to bevaccinated. I don't think we should be thinking about making a vaccine compulsory.