Unpaid carers snubbed in new Covid booster advice

Unpaid family carers have seemingly been excluded in new Covid booster advice given to the NHS.

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According to the draught guideline that was issued by the government’s vaccine watchdog, more Covid booster doses would be made available to millions of individuals in the United Kingdom in the autumn.

According to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an additional round of vaccinations would help prevent the most vulnerable people as well as frontline employees in social care and healthworkers from severe COVID over the winter.

The interim guidance, which was made public on Thursday, is intended to be of assistance to the National Health Service (NHS), care homes, and other providers of health care in their preparations for the deployment in the coming months. It proposes the distribution of additional doses of boosters to more than 25 million people across the United Kingdom.

All individuals aged 65 and older, as well as persons aged 16 to 64 who are in a clinical risk category, are eligible for the programme. Staff and residents of care facilities for older people are also eligible, as are frontline professionals in health and social care.

Prof Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid-19 vaccination on the JCVI, said: “Last year’s autumn booster vaccination programme provided excellent protection against severe Covid-19, including against the Omicron variant.

“We have provided interim advice on an autumn booster programme for 2022 so that the NHS and care homes are able to start the necessary operational planning to enable high levels of protection for more vulnerable individuals and frontline healthcare staff over next winter.”

However, campaigners have lashed out against the JCVI for seemingly exluding unpaid family carers from those groups who would be prioritised for a booster.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK said: “Yet again we are raising the fact that millions of unpaid carers looking after disabled, older or ill relatives and friends are being left out of announcements about the vaccination programme even though they do the same job as frontline health and care staff but care unpaid.

“The vaccination programme, when it included unpaid carers, recognised the hugely important role they provide which cannot easily be replaced should they become ill by overstretched health and care services.

“The first vaccination and booster programmes also understood the fact that vaccinating carers reduced the risk to the person being cared for.

“By not recognising carers, we are not only de-valuing their role, we are potentially building up unnecessary risk across health and care services, as well as to vulnerable individuals.

“The pandemic does not feel like it is over for many unpaid carers who are still worried about the risk to the person they care for.

“We sincerely hope that the final iteration of the guidance about boosters from the JCVI will include unpaid carers as they did last Autumn 2021, making them a priority, recognising their valuable role.”

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