Following reports that the Government is aiming to have 70,000 residents and staff in 589 long-term care facilities vaccinated by 24 January, Family Carers Ireland continue to reiterate the urgency and importance of including family carers as a priority groups in plans to roll out the Covid-19 vaccine.
Family carers continue to care for their loved-ones, around the clock, to ensure that loved ones stayed safe at home and out of hospital. They have played a hugely significant role in lessening the spread of Covid-19 and supporting the Irish healthcare system and must be considered the same as frontline workers.
Family Carers Ireland has written to the High-Level Task Force on Covid-19 Vaccination requesting that family carers are included as a priority group for vaccination; and are part of the IPPOSI coalition seeking vaccination prioritisation. The organisation has also contacted the Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly to seek clarity as to where family carers sit currently in the roll-out of the vaccine. It has pledged to continue to lobby strongly on this issue to ensure family carers are not forgotten yet again.
Catherine Cox Head of Communications and Policy with Family Carers Ireland said:
“Whilst caring for loved ones in the home, most family carers, out of necessity, need to leave their home for essential supplies, to attend appointments, school and part-time or full-time employment, which many combine with their caring role. We must offer this group the maximum protection for the vulnerable cared for person and for the family carer who may otherwise unwittingly bring the virus into the family home – jeopardising the cared for person and also their role as a care provider. Whilst some family carers will fall under the categories outlined for priority due to their age or own health conditions, many will not. Protecting the vulnerable is about more than protecting the vulnerable person, but is also about protecting the support infrastructure that surrounds them. Who will care for the ‘vulnerable’ but vaccinated person if their family carer tests positive and has to self-isolate or be admitted to hospital?
Older people and frontline care workers in nursing homes and care facilities have rightly been prioritised for the COVID vaccine. However, less than 5% of older people reside in these settings, with just under 95% enumerated as living in private households in Census 2016. By targeting the paid care work provided to older people in nursing homes, we are failing to reach the vast majority of carers who provide unpaid care within the home. Family Carers Ireland is calling for equal treatment in the administration of the vaccine between carers who are paid and those who are not.
Figures published on (07.12.2020) by the CSO from the Irish Health Survey 2019 estimate that one in eight people in Ireland aged over 15 is a family carer. Extrapolation to the national population estimates currently available suggests that some 500,000 people provide regular unpaid care. Previous estimates put this figure at 355,000. Based on these figures, it is now thought that family carers save the state €20bn annually.