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COVID-19: NHS doctor Steve James who challenged Sajid Javid still refusing to have vaccine as ministers reconsider health worker mandate

An NHS doctor who told the health secretary to his face that he wouldn’t have the COVID-19 vaccine has reaffirmed his refusal to accept the jab.

As ministers admitted they are reconsidering the vaccine mandate for NHS staff and health workers in England, Dr Steve James told Sky News’ Kay Burley he had not changed his mind over the measure.

Dr James, a consultant in critical care at King’s College Hospital in London, told Sajid Javid earlier this month vaccines are reducing transmission only for about eight weeks for the Delta variant and “probably less” for Omicron.

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He said the “science isn’t strong enough” to support mandatory vaccines for NHS workers.

The consultant anaesthetist, who has been treating coronavirus patients since the start of the pandemic, told Kay Burley on Monday he was surprised to even be offered the jab.

He said: “I never thought I would need to be vaccinated. I always thought healthy people wouldn’t be offered the vaccine; it was going to go to vulnerable people.”

NHS staff, he said, “do not want to be coerced” into getting a vaccine and making them mandatory is “wrong”.

Speaking for himself, he said he believes he has “natural immunity” after contracting the virus earlier in the pandemic.

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Asked if he accepted the view of other medics that he is being selfish, he replied “okay”, while suggesting 100,000 of his colleagues in the NHS feel the same.

People are unwilling to take it, he said, because it’s “still in experimental trial stages, [it’s] a vaccine that has side effects that are not really clearly talked about at present and people are concerned that they are higher than are being shared”.

The vaccine, he added, “isn’t very effective at stopping serious disease in a healthy population, because a healthy population doesn’t very get serious disease from COVID”.

Dr James said data showing vaccines increase levels of immunity doesn’t take into account those who have natural immunity and doesn’t apply to Omicron.

“I will not be having a vaccination, not unless the entire landscape of COVID and the vaccine changes and vaccine mandates are wrong.”

He also questioned the reliability of data on asymptomatic transmission, calling it “not real world data”, as it came from “computer model engineering”.

Earlier today Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke told Sky News the current coronavirus situation “does open a space” to look again at mandatory vaccinations for NHS staff and social care workers.

“Any decision that’s taken this week will reflect that reality,” he said.

“I can’t prejudge the decision that is going to be made, but obviously we do recognise those realities and that does open a space where we can look at this again.”

According to the Daily Telegraph, the health secretary will meet with ministers on the COVID-operations cabinet committee on Monday, where he is expected to confirm the U-turn.

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