We wanted to know how the Coronavirus pandemic has affected local carers so we partnered with Carers Trust Heart of England to hear the stories of carers and their loved ones.
Here's Claire's* experience of trying to find out more information about the COVID-19 vaccine for carers:
Claire* is a carer for her son, who has ADHD and mental health issues. Claire has health issues of her own. She wanted advice on when she would be given the vaccine. She didn’t fall into the older age categories that were prioritised for the vaccine, and her health conditions aren't ones which make her more vulnerable to Coronavirus.
Claire is registered as a carer at her GP surgery and she had heard from friends that this would mean she’d receive the vaccine earlier than she would if it was based solely on her age. She contacted her surgery several times but couldn’t get an answer to her question.
Claire found herself worrying so much about the vaccine and when she would receive it that the stress caused her to have more seizures than usual. This had a big impact on her caring role and it happened at a time when her son was struggling as well.
As Claire couldn’t get an answer to her question from her GP surgery, she called NHS 111. She still couldn’t find out when she might be invited for vaccination as NHS 111 couldn’t tell her how her GP surgery were managing their vaccination lists.
Claire found out some useful information when she received a bulletin from Carers Trust. She learned she would fall into vaccination priory group 6 as a carer and she had some guidance on when and how to expect an invitation to be vaccinated. She contacted her GP surgery again and found they were finally able to give her an answer as to when she would be invited to have her first vaccine.
* Name has been changed
What were the issues for Claire?
Claire couldn't access clear information about when to expect her COVID-19 vaccine.
Why was this an issue?
Claire was anxious about catching Coronavirus and wanted to access the vaccine to protect her and her son. Being unable to access accurate and clear information caused Claire additional stress and this impacted on her health.
What needs to happen?
As you can see from Claire's story, the information for carers about the vaccine wasn't always readily available or easy to understand.
It's positive that Claire was receiving services from Carers Trust so she was able to find support with her query.
Important information about vaccines needs to be:
Easy to find
Easy to understand
COVID Vaccines for Carers
The vaccine rollout was put into action very quickly. The Government created a list of Priority Groups setting the order people would be vaccinated. Initially, unpaid carers weren't listed as a priority.
Carers weren't added to Priority Group 6 until February 2021. Even then, not all carers were immediately eligible.
So that the NHS would know who to offer the vaccine to, carers needed to either be getting Carer's Allowance or noted as a primary carer on their GP records. This presented some problems for people who are carers but haven't been formally recognised as such.
More recently it was announced that carers who are receiving support from services based on a completed Carer's Assessment are also eligible for vaccination.