Cabinet minister Sajid Javid has dismissed the prospect of mandatory vaccination for the public as ethically wrong and impractical, saying: “I’ve got no interest”.
The health secretary’s comments come just hours after Boris Johnson introduced new restrictions in an attempt to control the spread of the omicron variant, urging the public to work from home and introducing Covid passports.
Despite the prime minister insistence that he did not “want us to have a society where we force people to get vaccinated”, he appeared to hint at a “national conversation” over the draconian measure of mandatory jabs that some European are already planning for.
He told the No 10 press conference: “I think that there is going to come a point, if we can show that the vaccines are capable of holding Omicron – and that is the key thing we need to test – I do think we need to have a national conversation about ways in which we deal with this pandemic.
“I don’t think we can keep going indefinitely with non-pharmaceutical interventions, I mean restrictions on people’s way of life, just because a substantial proportion of the population still sadly has not got vaccinated.”
However, asked whether the government was considering mandatory vaccination, the health secretary told Sky News on Thursday morning: “No — I’ve got no interest in mandatory vaccination.
“Apart from the high risk settings of the NHS and social care which we’ve already set out we will legislate for,” Mr Javid said.
“Other than that, if you’re talking about universal mandatory vaccination, I think ethically its wrong, but also at a very practical level it just wouldn’t work. Getting vaccinated has to be a positive decision”.
Mr Javid’s appearance on Thursday also followed his decision on the previous day to pull out of morning media interviews as the government faced intense pressure over a leaked recording of No 10 officials laughing about a Christmas party held at Downing Street.
“I didn’t appear because I saw that video – it upset me, it upset a lot of people across the country, it upset the prime minister,” the cabinet minister insisted.
Asked whether he “refused” to go onto the airwaves following the emergence of the footage, Mr Javid added: “No, it wasn’t about refusing – I spoke to my colleagues in No 10 and we actually agreed it is best to take some time to respond to the video in the way that the prime minister has now, by ordering an investigation by the cabinet secretary (Simon Case).
“And so the idea was to give some space to react but I’m pleased the prime minister has asked for an investigation, and I can see also why so many people would have been upset by that video.”