HSE workers and refusing vaccines

Sir, – Seán M Reaney (Letters, May 6th) refers to the suggestion that HSE staff who refuse vaccines may be moved, and argues, "Every individual has a right to refuse treatment."

What about my right to be treated by health staff who have taken necessary precautions to ensure that they do not infect me? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 12.

Sir, – Objecting to the idea that front-line healthcare staff who refuse Covid vaccine might be reallocated, Seán M Reaney suggests that “a right to refuse treatment . . . is the cornerstone of medical ethics”. This is itself open to question. Probably “the cornerstone of medical ethics” is the Hippocratic oath which begins “First, do no harm”. The capacity for a Covid-infected healthcare worker to do significant harm is obvious. Spreading infection to older, immune-suppressed and sicker, vulnerable patients might prove catastrophic. Front-line healthcare workers are routinely vaccinated for hepatitis B, and evidence of immunity is often required prior to commencement of work. If such workers acquire certain transmissible illnesses, such as HIV, their continuing to operate and perform invasive procedures is at least contentious and often curtailed. But if they were to refuse to be treated for it, which is indeed their “right” as Mr Reaney says, permitting ongoing practice would be hazardous indeed. While he is entitled to the opinion that the views of those refusing vaccines “should be respected”, front-line healthcare work will expose them and their patients to unnecessary dangers and significantly increase the risk of further outbreaks, deaths and lockdowns. The ethical treatment of their patients must clearly be considered in any sensible discussion of the matter. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.