FILE PHOTO: A pharmacist prepares a batch of COVID-19 vaccines at Regent Pharmacy in Northampton, Britain, October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Boyers/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – Health workers in England will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by April 1, health minister Sajid Javid said on Tuesday, making it a mandatory condition of employment for those on the frontline of the National Health Service (NHS).

The move sees England follow the likes of France, Italy and some U.S. states in ordering healthcare workers to get vaccinated.

“All those working in the NHS and social care will have to be vaccinated. We must avoid preventable harm and protect patients in the NHS, protect colleagues in the NHS and of course protect the NHS itself,” Javid told parliament.

“We intend the enforcement of this condition to start on the 1st of April.”

Javid said there would be exemptions for compulsory vaccinations for people who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons, and for those who don’t have face-to-face contact with patients.

The move follows a similar decision to make COVID-19 vaccines compulsory for care home workers, which comes into force on Thursday.

Javid said that the consultation for health workers also considered mandatory flu vaccines. He said he would not introduce requirements for flu shots at this stage, but added the option remained open.

Reporting by Michael Holden and Kate Holton, writing by Alistair Smout, editing by Estelle Shirbon

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