Where is the “fairness” for family carers in Covid-19 vaccination programme?

Family Carers Ireland deplores the continued failure to prioritise family carers in the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Speaking on the newly released immunisation guidelines Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Policy stated “The fact that family carers have once again been ignored is devastating. They were cast aside for PPE, they were ignored for priority testing and now they are being ignored for vaccinations. What message does that send out? How does that show that we value and recognise the work that family carers do? The programme for Government clearly states “Family carers are the backbone of care provision in Ireland. They deserve support and recognition from Government”.  Sadly actions speak louder than words and today our Government has failed family carers. We need family carers included as a priority group for vaccinations now because Carers can’t wait!”.

While we welcome the Government’s decision to move many patients aged 16-69 with serious underlying health conditions up the priority list based on advice from NIAC, the fact that family carers are not even mentioned in the revised listing is deeply disappointing.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has stated that the Covid-19 vaccination programme “has always been built on fairness”. Where is the fairness for family carers who have gone above and beyond throughout this pandemic to keep their loved ones safe at home and out of our overburdened hospitals? Why should unpaid family carers providing extraordinary levels of care in the home be treated any differently to paid care workers who are prioritised for the vaccine?

The guidelines are drawn up with a view to preventing deaths and hospitalisations. In many cases, the hospital Emergency Department is the only place a cared for person can be brought to if their family carer is unable to continue caring because of Covid-19. Furthermore they will arrive at the hospital as a clear Covid-19 infection risk.

What message can family carers take from a report by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee which justifies prioritising health care workers not in direct patient contact on the basis that they provide “essential health services” and “protect patients”? Family carers are in direct patient contact every day.

NIAC says its ongoing review process will continue to look at groups including family carers “who deliver essential services to highly dependent individuals in the home setting”. Family Carers Ireland is calling on NIAC to provide clarity on when an updated recommendation will be made and is urging Government not to discriminate against family carers over paid care workers as this leaves many family carers with little choice other than consider pursuing legal options. See  For more.