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Welby: Covid vaccination should be encouraged but not compulsory

10 January 2022


A poster in Bristol city centre urges people to receive a booster vaccine

A poster in Bristol city centre urges people to receive a booster vaccine

PEOPLE who choose not to be vaccinated against the coronavirus should be encouraged to change their minds — but not compelled by law to do so, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

In an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, Archbishop Welby was asked what attitude people should have towards those who do not have health reasons not to be vaccinated but decline anyway.

He replied: “I think we need to be encouraging rather than condemnatory, because condemning people doesn’t do much good. . . Also, it increases the general sense of anger that comes at a time of insecurity and fear and grief.

“I think we need to be encouraging to people to look after their neighbours. Jesus’s great words “Love your neighbour as yourself”: if you do that, it seems to me you go and get vaccinated, and I’d encourage people — I’m not personally in favour of compulsory vaccination by law, but I am very much in favour of encouraging people, of incentivising people — to get vaccinated. It makes a difference. It’s not decisive, it’s not the whole story, but it’s an important part of the story.”

It was reported on Sunday that more than 150,000 people had now died within 28 days of a positive Covid test since the pandemic began. Speaking earlier on the Today programme, the Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, said that the UK needed to learn to “live with Covid”, and that the country could “look forward to the progressive lifting of restrictions”.

Archbishop Welby said that it needed to be remembered that “every death is a profound tragedy”, and that “each person will grieve in their own way”. He said, however, that “some national symbolism” of remembrance was needed, and gave the example of the memorial wall outside St Thomas’ Hospital in central London, which displays a heart for every person who has died with Covid.

He also called for people to be “generous spiritually and physically [and] materially. . . We’ve seen the fragility of our lives, the fragility of our economies. One way in which we grieve well is to reach out to others with a generosity that will help them, whether it’s round the world with the vaccine or in this country especially. All these things help everyone in their different stages.”

Archbishop Welby has also spoken about social care, on Friday calling for a “clear vision”.

The Government has proposed a new tax and a cap on care costs to prevent most people from having to sell their homes to fund social care. Archbishop Welby was reported in The Guardian as saying: “There isn’t a clear vision for care. We know the vision for the NHS: ‘free care at the point of use’. You can sum it up in a sentence. . . We keep putting the cart before the horse. We keep talking about how we are going to pay for it when we don’t really know what we want to pay for.”

He continued: “If it [social care] is just a family obligation, it is totally unjust, because poorer families, families struggling to make ends meet, families with significant debt, simply will feel guilty.

“We have got to get rid of the guilt. It is a community obligation. We have done that in health and education, we need to do that with social care. It is a national obligation, expressed by the state. The state at the very least has to underwrite that covenant, as it does with health.”


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