Hospitals can tell new hires to get jab, Lenert says
Hospitals and other employers in the healthcare sector are justified in making jabs against Covid-19 a job requirement for new employees, Luxembourg's health minister said on Wednesday, wading into a debate about mandatory vaccinations across Europe.
Luxembourg's CHL hospital chain will only hire new employees that have received the vaccine, group head Romain Nati said on radio on Wednesday, making his medical institution one of the first in the country to do so.
"I would say that we support [vaccinations as a job requirement]," Health Minister Paulette Lenert said at a press conference on Wednesday.
The government has "no position on this yet" but "it is something that could be recommended", Lenert said. "It is an option that is certainly given contractually. It is also sensible to do this in hospitals".
While France and Italy have passed laws forcing medical professionals to be vaccinated ahead of an autumn surge of the virus, Luxembourg is trying to persuade people to take it voluntarily. The government gave healthcare workers a second stab at a jab last month, prompting over 600 - 360 in care homes alone - to take the vaccine, Lenert said on Wednesday.
A disappointing vaccine uptake amongst staff was one of the many shortcomings cited in a critical report into care home deaths last month. In some facilities fewer than one in two workers had been vaccinated.
CHL head Nati told the 100.7 radio station that he expected his decision to be challenged in court. All doctors at the group have now been vaccinated, he said, but 17% of nurses and carers still have not taken the jab.
In April, the Mondorf spa, which also performs medical treatments made headlines as it was the first healthcare institution to require employees to get the jab or be tested frequently instead.
Unlike some neighbouring countries, Luxembourg was not seeing a significant uptick in new infections, and fewer people were in hospital, Lenert said. A large majority of those catching the virus had not yet received the vaccination, she said, accounting for 76% of new infections last week.
“Vaccinations have a clear impact, not only on new infections but also on the severity of the disease”, she said, adding that only two people who had been fully vaccinated ended up in hospital after contracting the virus.
In a bid to drive up vaccination numbers, the government is hoping that more people will take a jab from a trusted general practitioner. Last week, 177 people took a vaccine from one of 13 doctor's practises dishing out doses, with more than 170 set to join over the next two weeks, Lenert said.
Just 63% of Luxembourg's overall population have had one vaccine dose, with 53% having received all shots required for full protection, according to Our World in Data - a University of Oxford research project - just above EU average.
This means Luxembourg is still well short of the 80% to 85% immunity rate required to reach herd immunity - when the virus is petering out because it has run out of people to infect - a researcher told the Luxembourg Times last week.
There are no plans in Luxembourg to widely dole out a third dose of the vaccine, said Jean-Claude Schmit, a top government advisor, who spoke with Lenert at the press conference. Currently only highly vulnerable groups - cancer patients or people who have had organ transplants for example - will be given a third dose to boost their immune response, Schmit said.
The CSMI government advisory body is looking at booster shots for care home residents and for older generations as well as a second dose for people who have had the one-shot Johnson&Johnson vaccine, Schmit said.