Local News

Some believe caregivers deserve higher priority in vaccine eligibility line

Posted January 15, 2021 5:52 p.m. EST
Updated January 16, 2021 6:25 a.m. EST

Those who work with old or at-risk people in long-term care facilities are part of the population that is currently vaccine-eligible.

Caregivers aren't being given the same priority; they are included in the third group to get vaccinated.

Board Certified Patient Advocate Nancy Ruffner said that needs to change.

"I would say they should be higher up than they have been, simply because we are interfacing regularly with folks that need us," Ruffner said.

The state health department issued a statement to WRAL News, explaining the logic behind the vaccine priorities.

"The vaccine prioritization is designed to save lives and prevent spread while vaccine supplies are limited. North Carolina moves through vaccination phases by aligning to federal priorities while giving local health departments and hospitals the flexibility to move to the next priority group as they complete the previous one and have vaccines available."

Ruffner said getting caregivers vaccinated should be a higher priority.

"I don’t understand the logic of the decisions sometimes, because many folks are caregivers to their loved ones," Ruffner explained. "Most [caregivers] go to a job, and then they come home to another job, and that’s taking care of a loved one who may have a physical or cognitive need."

According to the National Center on Caregiving, there are just over 800,000 informal caregivers in North Carolina.

Ruffner insists that many of those 800,000 are caring for more than one family member. While the amount of work varies, caregivers often work in close contact with those at high risk. She believes getting caregivers vaccinated would limit the chance of transmission .

​"We’re still all looking up and down the line, how we’ve been coming in contact, who’s coming in contact with our loved ones," Ruffner said. "There’s a lot of processing going on and that takes an emotional toll. We are fatigued"

For now, Ruffner says the best thing caregivers can do to avoid bringing the virus home while they wait to get vaccinated is to follow all Center for Disease Control and state recommendations. Wear a mask, wash your hands and get tested as often as you can.

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.