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Councillor Ann Norton believes full time carers and people with disabilities should be prioritised as part of the national vaccination programme. Photograph by John Kelly.

Full time carers should be prioritised in vaccination programme – Cllr Norton

FULL time carers and people with disabilities should be vaccinated as soon as possible, according to Councillor Ann Norton.

Councillor Norton has called on the government to follow the example of the United Kingdom by prioritising carers and family members they are looking after for the vaccine against Covid-19.

As a parent and full time carer, the Independent Councillor wrote to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, Tanáiste Leo Varadkar and An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin about the need to prioritise carers as part of the national vaccination programme and was very disappointed with the lack of any serious engagement.

She received a standard acknowledgement from Minister Donnelly’s secretary, an automatic response from Deputy Varadkar and no response from the Taoiseach.

Councillor Norton, who cares for her daughter, Nicole, (23) said it was time for the government to recognise carers were saving the state huge sums of money by keeping children and adults out of long stay residential facilities.

“Full time carers are being ignored and feel let down because we are a relatively small group and our priority is looking after family members.

“We haven’t the time to stand outside Dáil Eireann. I haven’t got the time or the energy to go Dublin with Nicole and sit hours the Dáil for hours to show she deserves better because I could end up making her sick.

“The least the state can do is to vaccinate the carer and the person being cared for. People with underlying conditions like Cerebral Palsy or Downe Syndrome are at a massive risk of contracting Covid-19.

“Does the government believe these people shouldn’t be prioritised because they have never been mentioned?

Last April, Councillor Norton recalled she felt very guilty when she couldn’t put Nicole, who has Cerebral Palsy and other health issues, to bed after she had contracted Covid-19, despite taking all the necessary precautions.

“As a carer, you are exhausted and worried and are continuously anxious over the fact that if something goes wrong, Nicole could end up in University Hospital Limerick where she could pick up the virus.

“My priority is to keep Nicole safe and Covid-19.

“We are providing a service that no one else is asked to provide in the workforce. We don’t get holidays or work for 39 hours week. Some carers don’t get a night’s sleep. We need to be recognised and prioritised in the vaccination programme,” she said.

The Department of Health said the aim of the Covid-19 vaccination programme is to ensure, that vaccine will become available to vaccinate all of those for whom the vaccine is indicated. Given that there will be initially limited vaccines available, it will take some time for all to receive those vaccines and that has necessitated an allocation strategy to ensure that those most at risk of death and serious illness receive the vaccine first.

“The priority is to first vaccinate and protect directly the most vulnerable amongst us, that is, those most likely to have a poor outcome if they contract the virus. The priority is to directly use vaccines to save lives and reduce serious illness, hence the focus on the over 65 year old cohort in long term residential care facilities, and healthcare workers in front line services often caring for the most vulnerable,” said a department spokesperson.

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