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Family caregivers need the vaccine sooner rather than later! Understandably, the initial rollout of two COVID-19 vaccines prioritize health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. While each state can set it own rollout plan, the next group expected to get the vaccine is adults ages 75 and older and frontline essential workers such as first responders. Then come adults between 65 and 75, those between 16 and 64 with high-risk medical conditions and “other essential workers”.

According to the The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ Updated Interim Recommendation for Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine — United States, December 2020, state and local authorities will determine the exact allocation of vaccine to high risk communities as recommended in this report. Family caregivers, however, are not mentioned in the report, and this is serious oversight. Sure, many of us will fall into other prioritized communities but many will not, and even those of us that are higher on the list need to recognized for our role as essential workers.

Family Caregivers are Irreplaceable

If a medical professional falls ill or God-forbid dies, there is a reasonable chance that someone can step in and take over those responsibilities. If a family caregiver succumbs, the entire family and close relatives and friends are put at risk. In my case for example, if something happens to me, aside from the risk of infecting the rest of my family, it would be left to my sister to take over care of my wife who needs full-time care, and raise my 12-year-old daughter. My sister is aware of this possibility but she has her own life and career, and we would all like to avoid this scenario. Without her help, my wife would likely end up in a long-term nursing facility as nearly all of the rest of our family are too old to adequately care for her. Remember, she is only 52.

When Will I Get the Vaccine

I’m 63 and have chronic conditions that put me at high-risk. Complicating the matter is that I’ve had bad reactions to the flu and pneumonia vaccine in the past. Using my parameters, according to the New York Times opinion piece, “Find Your Place in the Vaccine Line“, based on my risk profile;

“we believe you’re in line behind 23.0 million people across the United States. When it comes to Connecticut, we think you’re behind 260,700 others who are at higher risk in your state. And in Fairfield County, you’re behind 60,600 others.

This likely puts my vaccination out in late Spring 2021, a long time to continue to live in fear of infection, exacerbated by having my daughter at risk of infection from attending school twice a week. I can live with this if necessary, but I know of many family caregivers who don’t have the energy, health or financial means to wait this long.

We Need to Speak Up Now!

There’s still time to influence the vaccination timeline. Write or better yet, call your federal, state and local elected officials. Look for and contact the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group in your state. Make the case for why family caregivers need to be prioritized for the vaccine. Keep in mind that nearly every constituency is jockeying for better position so it will be hard to make a difference, but if we stick to the facts and deliver a heartfelt emotional plea for the community as a whole, I believe people will listen. It might only make the difference of a few days or a few weeks but no one can deny that any improvement is beneficial.

There are other family caregiver sensitive organizations that I believe will also be advocating for the community as a whole. I’m still tracking them down but some are AARP, The Family Caregiver Alliance, The Caregiver Action Network, and the Administration for Community Living. Plus there are hundreds of condition-specific organizations that support family caregivers. Pick a few organizations and contact them to let them know you support their efforts.

Your Life Literally Depends on This!

It’s not often that one can encourage people to take action because their lives depend on it and have it actually be true. Now is that time! Family caregivers need to speak up to be respected for the vital service we provide to our families, communities, and the country. According to a recent AARP report, there are over 50 million family caregivers in the US. Each of us care for at least one other person so that brings our directly affected community to over 100 million people, and it’s likely the number is more like 150 million.

I know it takes work to speak up or write or call — trust me, I struggle to get these posts written and published, but this is the time to find that strength and become an advocate for yourself, your family, and the entire family caregiver community. If you can’t do something original, share this article! Just use the sharing buttons to share it in social media, or copy it and send it in emails to other caregivers, to elected officials, or to editors of your local newspaper. We can make a difference!

Let me know more about your situation privately by email or in the comments below. If you know of other organizations that should be contacted, let us all know in the comments. If you need help, let me know that too. Here’s to a much better 2021!

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