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,” stated Denis Naughten.
“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 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 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,” concluded Denis Naughten.
Joint Committee on Health debate
Friday, 29 Jan 2021
Covid-19 Vaccination Programme: Update
We need to put all of this into perspective. Forty days ago, we did not have a single vaccine dose available, but in forty days’ time, we will have four different vaccines. I have a couple of specific questions. On front-line healthcare workers, a category that includes home help, there seems to be a differentiation between HSE employees and private employees contracted with the HSE.
Can Mr. Walsh clarify that they will all be treated the same?
Mr. Walsh might highlight what is happening with the availability of the vaccine for carers.
Mr. David Walsh, HSE work stream lead of the vaccination process and workforce
I thank the Deputy. With regard to home help or home support workers, as far as I am concerned it includes HSE direct employees, contracted employees through the various agencies and people working entirely in the private sector. This is about a population vaccination programme and about front-line healthcare workers. It does not matter who their employer is. I am clear on that. It adds significantly to the figures of front-line healthcare workers. The various representative bodies write to me regularly about it.
Carers, by which I mean family carers, are currently not encompassed within that. I know it is a source of unease among that group.