Priority system wont work for all say carers
Scotland’s unpaid carers could continue to live in isolation for months waiting to be vaccinated against covid as those they care for are prioritised before them.
Unpaid carers are being prioritised in the vaccine roll-out by the Scottish Government but as yet have no confirmation when that will happen.
It means unpaid carers looking after those in a different priority group could go months before they receive the jab.
They are now calling to be vaccinated alongside those they care for in the same way care home staff are.
Health secretary, Jeane Freeman, has said the first two priority groups - including care home staff and residents, frontline health workers and over-80s in the community - would have had their first jab by 5 February.
Those aged 70 and over would be vaccinated by mid-February, Freeman said.
Those aged over 65 and people who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be vaccinated by early March.
Lynn Williams, a prominent commentator on social care and an unpaid carer of husband Derek, said communications around carers as a priority group has not been handled well.
She believes unpaid carers have been overlooked by the process. Many are in the joint committee on vaccine and information (JCVI) group six when they should be in two alongside other key workers, Williams said.
“So unless whoever vaccinates my husband also decides to vax me at same time, then we still have to shield until my immunity is built up. That could be summer before that happens. That would be 18 months of shielding for many carers and those deemed clinically vulnerable.
“It means that those cared for remain at risk. If unpaid carers become incapacitated, who looks after them?”
She added: “How much harder will it be for families, for public services, if unpaid carers remain at risk from covid?
“We need to have political and medical leaders continually being honest about the vaccination. I suspect our isolation as a couple may need to continue unless we aggressively pursue a zero covid approach as in other countries - the risk will always be heightened for families with disabilities and carers without a clear elimination strategy.”
Carers Trust Scotland has been liasing with the Scottish Government on this issue but has been given no firm timeframes.
Its director Louise Morgan said: “We fully appreciate that some people are frustrated that they are not being vaccinated at the same time as the person they care for but we recognise that the priorities are based on scientific evidence to protect the most vulnerable in our society and to preserve life.
“The current communications from Scottish Government are unable to provide an exact timeframe or pathway for carers as to how they will be able to access the vaccine but as soon as this is determined, we will publish this widely.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Timescales for carers and others to receive the vaccine will become clearer as we know more about vaccine approvals and when supplies will be available.
“We will seek to write out to as many carers as possible to inform them of their eligibility for the vaccine but we recognise this will not reach everyone who needs it so this will be supplemented by wider public messaging and other forms of communications.”