We have been working with carers to campaign to get unpaid carers added to the priority list of the groups of people initially set to receive the coronavirus vaccine and to get the vaccine around the same time paid care workers and health staff.
Roma Mills, our Carers’ Policy and Engagement Manager, has written to Hertfordshire’s 11 MPs asking for their support in raising concerns to decision-makers. We, like many carers and carers’ organisations such as Carers UK, were concerned that unpaid carers were not initially on the priority list. However, at the end of December 2020, the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) added unpaid carers who receive Carer's Allowance or look after someone elderly or disabled who may be at risk if they were unable to care for them, to the priority list. They are in the sixth group along with people aged 16 to 64 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality. Paid health and care workers are in the second priority group.
Hertfordshire carer John Ley, who is a full-time carer for his wife who has Alzheimer’s and his daughter who has Down’s Syndrome, has also launched a petition calling for unpaid carers to be prioritised for the vaccine. We are supporting him with this petition, which is on the Change.org website and can be viewed and signed via http://chng.it/MSFJLkkL
Roma mentioned that a Carers UK survey highlighted that carers put access to vaccinations above breaks and increases to benefits like the Carer’s Allowance.
Roma said: “Unpaid carers have worked hard to protect their loved ones from COVID-19. Many have sacrificed their own breaks from caring, contact with others, or reduced their working hours, to do this. The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation should recognise the vital role unpaid carers are playing in keeping people who are elderly, disabled or with chronic or life-limiting illnesses safe.”
John said: “Whilst my wife and daughter may get the vaccine sooner rather than later, what will happen to them if I get ill with coronavirus? I appreciate there are many people who urgently need the vaccination, but I believe the legion of carers who look after their loved ones need to receive the vaccine as soon as possible to be able to continue their invaluable jobs.”
You can find out the vaccination priority groups list on the government website via this link – COVID-19 vaccine priority groups. We also have a video from an information session about the coronavirus vaccination we organised for unpaid carers that took place on 16th December on our YouTube channel - viewed via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTOsnZ3xifo. The session was led by Jim McManus, Director Public Health at Hertfordshire County Council, and he answered carers' questions about the coronavirus vaccine such as plans for giving the vaccine to housebound people, possible reactions and conditions and circumstances where people should not have the vaccine.
If you’re caring for someone and have links to Hertfordshire and you’d like to discuss issues related to your caring role, or you want to find out how we can support you, please contact us. Email or call us on 01992 58 69 69.