The UK does not need to introduce mandatory COVID vaccines because of the “extraordinary success” of the rollout, Dominic Raab told Sky News.
The deputy prime minister said vaccine mandates might be needed “in some countries” but not in the UK after the World Health Organisation (WHO) said a conversation is needed on the subject.
Asked whether the government should make COVID vaccines mandatory, Mr Raab told Kay Burley: “Maybe in some countries but I don’t think in the UK, given the extraordinary success we’ve had in rolling out the vaccine.
“The rollout scheme of boosters is working very effectively and as a result, we have seen, not just in health terms, but also with the ability to come out of the lockdown, the economy bouncing back in a way that some of the other economies and countries around the world haven’t.
“I don’t think we want to crow about that but I think it shows we have the right balance in the UK and we should stick to our guns.”
Mr Raab said the government debates mandatory vaccines “all the time”, but it has “never even been on our Plan B and it still isn’t”.
He added: “I don’t think we need to divert from the course we’re on right now.”
Since 11 November, people working in care homes must be fully vaccinated unless they are exempt, prompting fears thousands could leave the industry.
From April, the government has said all frontline NHS staff and those working in social care must also be fully vaccinated.
Robb Butler, executive director for WHO Europe, earlier told Burley half a million more deaths could be recorded by early 2022 if measures are not taken to stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Mr Butler said only 54% of the population of the 53 WHO Europe region member states are vaccinated, “so there is so much work to be done, still. We are not there yet”.
He said “every member of society” needs to be vaccinated and mandatory vaccination “can, but doesn’t always increase uptake”.
“There are lessons of history here where mandates have come at the expense of trust, social inclusion. So it is very delicate, but we believe it is time to have that conversation, from an individual and population-based perspective,” he added.
“It’s a healthy debate to have.”
Labour’s shadow education secretary agreed that a conversation needs to take place on mandatory vaccines but said her party is not pushing for it.
“Everyone has got to be very careful not to produce adverse results if it goes down a direction of travel of compulsory vaccination,” Kate Green told Burley.
“We don’t support that, we think it is important to use persuasion and information and to make it easy for people to get the vaccine.”