Prioritise home-help workers for Covid vaccine, urges Cork TD
Cork TD says more than 5,000 home-helps visit almost 55,000 people each week
“It would also be reassuring ... if the HSE could include home-help workers and other care-givers as a priority group for vaccinations as home-help workers provide essential care and support for older people in their homes.” File photograph: Getty
Home-helps and other care-givers looking after elderly people at home should be given the Covid-19 vaccine as a priority to help protect the most vulnerable in society, according to Fine Gael spokesperson on Health, Colm Burke.
The Cork North Central Fine Gael TD said more than 5,000 home-helps, who visit almost 55,000 people around the country each week to provide them with care and assistance, should be included in vaccination priority groups.
He said 1,200 healthcare workers at the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital in Cork were vaccinated last weekend by volunteers, but similar such programmes need to be extended to home-helps and care-givers.
He said such programmes where people are vaccinated locally and speedily offer great reassurance to frontline health staff, working diligently caring for patients during this challenging phase of the Covid 19 pandemic.
“It would also be reassuring ... if the HSE could include home-help workers and other care-givers as a priority group for vaccinations as home-help workers provide essential care and support for older people in their homes.
“Very often, these vulnerable older people are visited by several different people each day so by vaccinating home-help workers and other caregivers we can protect older people and prevent hospitalisations.
“It would also provide reassurance to older people living independently at home and their families as well as the home-help staff and other care-givers on whom so many people depend daily,” added Mr Burke.
According to the Department of Health, the 2020 National Service Plan provides for the delivery of some nine million home support hours to be delivered to 53,400 people.
“The number of people in receipt of home support at any time will vary, having regard to the value of the individual home supports approved and as clients cease and new clients with different value home support are approved and commenced.”
Mr Burke also called on the HSE to dispense Vitamin D supplements free of charge to pensioners in particular in order to help them combat respiratory illnesses including Covid 19 during winter months.
He said most people derive Vitamin D from sunlight, which is scarce in Ireland in winter, but people are also confined indoors due to the pandemic and so have even less chance of acquiring Vitamin D naturally.
“There is clear medical evidence that many Irish people suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D plays a major role in our immune system and according to medical experts, is particularly important in combating respiratory illness.
“Studies show Vitamin D deficiency is sometimes associated with increased susceptibility to infection .... There is also evidence emerging that a person with a Vitamin D deficiency has less defences in place if they contract Covid-19.
“While we all know the first line of defence is social distancing and the Government’s priority remains the successful distribution of the vaccine, initiatives like this can only help bolster the population’s defences further.”