On 12th February 2021 I wrote the following letter to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health Chair, Sean Crowe and Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly:
Dear Minister Donnelly and Deputy Crowe
I write out of concern regarding the current COVID-19 vaccine rollout programme and the place of Family Carers therein.
While I acknowledge and uphold the importance of prioritising those at risk of poor outcomes, as things stand those Family Carers who have contacted my constituency office will receive the vaccine in the second last cohort, as they are ‘aged 18-54 years who did not have access to the vaccine in prior phases’.
I would like to place on record my belief that Family Carers are not receiving the societal value they deserve in the current rollout programme. This it appears to me, is because we are viewing them as a diverse group. At the very least, I would like to suggest that Family carers who care for someone who cannot be vaccinated, for clinical reasons, are considered together for reasons I outline below.
As you will be aware, under the current scheme, unless they are in a higher category for reason of age, occupation or their own health, Family Carers are currently placed below ‘those in occupations important to the functioning of society, for example: third level institutions, entertainment and goods-producing industries who work in settings where protective measures can be followed without much difficulty’.
I note the ethical principles in prioritising this cohort include fairness and moral equality and while I certainly do not want to denigrate the importance of those sectors mentioned above, I find it very unfortunate that the wording may be interpreted as implying that we value the importance of others, including Family Carers, in the functioning of society less.
However, I understand the importance of removing political consideration from the process of determining prioritisation. Therefore, I ask that you ask the NIAC to review the evidence suggesting that certain vaccinations reduce the chances of transmission. If found to have validity, I then ask that you urge the HSE to immediately reconsider the current placement of those Family Carers who are caring for those who cannot, for clinical reasons, be vaccinated and place them in a higher cohort of the roll out.
I also ask that the wording of the current programme is reconsidered for the reasons mentioned above. As I know you would agree, Family Carers are invaluable to the functioning of society.
Malcolm Noonan TD