‘Urgent need’ for carers to get priority in Covid-19 jab rollout, Dáil hears

ireland
‘Urgent Need’ For Carers To Get Priority In Covid-19 Jab Rollout, Dáil Hears
A sign for a vaccination centre at DCU on Collins Avenue in Dublin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
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By Michelle Devane, PA

Family carers are at their “wits’ end” over the lack of priority being afforded to them in the national Covid-19 vaccination programme, the Dail has heard.

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said there was an “urgent need” for carers to be given priority in the rollout of the vaccines.

In response, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said carers should not be prioritised over healthcare workers, people over the age of 70 or those under 70 with medical conditions.

Mr Doherty said: “Many carers are at their wits’ end. The question thousands of carers are asking is ‘Who steps in for a vulnerable family member who needs round-the-clock care seven days a week if they get sick?’.

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“This is especially true for carers with vulnerable children who can’t yet be vaccinated, with their only protection being if their carer is vaccinated.

“The case for family carers to be afforded some level of priority is a very strong one but the Government have not listened, or not so far.”

Mr Varadkar accused the Donegal TD of playing cynical politics and said carers were “too busy to be played politics with the way you are”.

He said healthcare workers and those over the age of 70 and those under 70 with medical conditions were being given prioritisation because they were most at risk of getting very sick or dying from the virus.

He said: “While I totally appreciate and value the work of carers across the country, I don’t think they should be prioritised at the expense of healthcare workers, the over-70s or the expense of those under 70 with a severe medical condition.

“Once they’ve all had their first dose then Niac will be able to consider other groups, for example such as carers, but I don’t think this is something you should play politics about.

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“I do think Sinn Féin is doing that. If you were being honest in your position you would at least say who you think should be downgraded.

“Any time you move any group, any profession, any cohort up the list of priority, by definition you have to move someone down.”

Mr Doherty described Mr Varadkar’s response as “very disappointing” and added that the only person playing politics was the Tánaiste.

“There’s a very genuine argument and rationale to having some priority for family carers,” Mr Doherty said.

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“There’s no priority for them at all at the minute. They fall into the generational population in terms of age group.

“Don’t tell me I’m playing politics with it when I know the risks associated with this.”

Mr Varadkar said the Government had asked the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) to look at giving careers priority after the current groups received their jab and at that point carers “should be prioritised”.

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