Local Independent Deputy, Denis Naughten, has called for the lack of priority for family carers to be reviewed with a view to prioritising carers for vaccination due to the impact this could have on the person they are caring for at home.
“It was clearly a mistake not to designate full-time family carers in the vulnerable category because if carers get sick then many older people, or those with a disability, will be forced into hospital or long-term care, putting further pressure on our over stretched health system.
“If vaccination priority was based on the risk of death, followed by hospitalisation, then why are carers excluded? In the UK family carers have been prioritised as being a group at higher risk because ‘those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill, should also be offered vaccination alongside these groups’.
“Across the EU, US, UK and many other countries vaccinating family carers is seen as international best practice, yet they are still being ignored here in Ireland.
“Providing care at home during the Covid-19 pandemic has been incredibly difficult for family carers with many forced to care single-handed without the support of family, home care, day services or respite.
“The majority of carers, not just older carers and those with underlying health conditions, have been cocooned within their homes, isolated and reliant on others for their shopping, prescriptions and essential medical supplies in order to minimise the risk of exposing their loved ones to the possibility of Covid-19 infection.
“Their efforts have enabled older people, people with a disability, the sick and terminally ill to stay at home and, as a result, played a more significant role in suppressing this virus than most and their essential contribution to the national healthcare response to Covid-19 must now be supported as they continue this vital work.
“Under questioning last Friday at the Health Committee, the HSE acknowledged to me that the failure to include family carers has caused ‘unease among that group’ but what we now need is for the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC ) to review its prioritisation based on the current information that is available to it and specifically consider the provision of a vaccine to family carers,” Deputy Naughten concluded.