WellChild warns seriously ill children could be at risk if parents and carers fail to get COVID vaccine now
Families with complex needs children across the UK are desperately worried that lack of rapid access to the COVID 19 vaccine for parents and carers will put their children’s lives in danger if they are left with nobody to care for them.
WellChild has written to the Government’s Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi asking him to bring all parents and carers of complex needs children and young adults into priority two for the vaccine in line with frontline health and social care workers.
Though young children, even ones with complex medical needs, are often not in direct danger from COVID 19 they need constant 24-hour medical care in their homes, provided by their parents and professional carers. If carers and parents catch COVID 19 it is not only their lives at risk but those of the complex needs children they care for who cannot survive without their constant expert support.
WellChild believes this group of families has been once again forgotten and left unclear on when they will get the vaccine. Parents have told WellChild that where they are in the pecking order depends on a postcode lottery with no regard for the grave consequences of leaving their children without proper care.
WellChild’s online support community, the WellChild Family Tree, has been contacted by nearly 200 anxious parents from across the UK who are frightened for the safety of their children and are calling for clarity on when they and their carers will receive the vaccine to make things safe for them and the children they care for.
One parent who is fearful about the impact on her family if she falls ill from COVID is Lisa from Oldham. Her seven-year-old son Alfie has a rare condition which means he has intractable epilepsy, is fed through a tube in his stomach and needs 24 hour support. Lisa has carers come to her house to help her with Alfie’s care but as a single parent, Alfie and his younger sister Amelia are completely dependent on Lisa. When she asked about the COVID vaccine, Lisa was told to wait for two months before enquiring. Lisa said:
“I’m so worried about what would happen to my children if I was ill. I couldn’t have carers coming to the house then or just ask anyone else to take over because Alfie needs specialist care. I have great faith in the doctors who look after him but can’t help wondering why my situation and my family aren’t considered important enough by the authorities.”
WellChild’s Director of Programmes Tara Parker, who is also mother to a young adult with complex needs, said:
“As mother to a 21-year-old daughter with complex health needs, supported 24/7 by myself, my husband and a team of three carers, I have witnessed first-hand the local variations, confusion and inappropriate responses parents like me are experiencing. They are either being told nothing; that they are not a priority; or that they have been allocated a priority, which simply doesn’t match the vital role they play in keeping seriously ill children safe and out of hospital.
“Rather than leave these parents battling once more for help that should be their right, we are calling on Government to provide immediate clarification that any parent or carer of a child with complex medical needs is explicitly upgraded to Priority Group 2 for vaccination.
No parent should be left asking ‘If COVID comes into our house, who will be there to provide the round the clock specialist care that my child needs?'