Older people’s commissioner urges unvaccinated care home staff to get Covid jab - 24% still not jabbed

Northern Ireland’s commissioner for older people has urged the remaining unvaccinated care home staff to get the Covid-19 jab.

Thursday, 5th August 2021, 12:11 pm
Updated Thursday, 5th August 2021, 3:45 pm
The Commissioner for Older People for NI Eddie Lynch. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Eddie Lynch was speaking as it emerged that around a quarter of care home staff have not yet been vaccinated against the virus.

About 76% of care home staff and 90% of residents have been vaccinated.

One woman told the BBC she had returned from the US to see her mother, but was unable to as there had been an outbreak in her care home.

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According to Department of Health figures on Wednesday, there are currently active Covid-19 outbreaks at 103 care homes in Northern Ireland.

“Over a fifth of care homes now are in a Covid outbreak and that is concerning when you consider that only a few weeks ago we were in single figures,” he told the BBC.

“I think that reflects the higher community transmission that is happening across Northern Ireland at the minute.”

Mr Lynch said a number of the outbreaks involved small numbers of cases and unlike last year he is hearing that the number getting very seriously ill from Covid-19 in care homes is “very small at the minute”.

He said the weekly testing regime in care homes shows some staff who are positive without symptoms.

Mr Lynch appealed to care home workers who are not yet vaccinated to do so.

“I would call on anyone who can be vaccinated to do so as soon as possible because we all know from this virus that the higher percentage of people who are vaccinated, the less chance of transmitting the virus,” he said.

“My appeal would be don’t delay, go and get your jab now. It’s better, not just in care homes, but for everyone in society if more people get the vaccine as soon as possible.

“The implications of this are serious in the sense of the big impact in relation to outbreaks is the impact it has on visiting. I know many families are extremely worried about this.”

Pauline Shepherd, chief executive of Independent Health and Care Providers, said they are encouraging staff to have the vaccine.

“It is not a matter of not caring or not bothering or people shrugging their shoulders either.” she told the Nolan Show.

She added: “It appears to be that the reasons are that the younger females - they are worried about their fertility and all of those myths that were put out at the beginning of the pandemic.”

The Public Health Agency says there is no evidence of any risk to fertility and that this is affirmed by the British Fertility Society and Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists.

A woman who identified herself as ‘Pamela’ also told Good Morning Ulster that she had travelled back to NI from Chicago to see her mother, who is in a dementia unit in a care home.

“It is extremely important that I see my mother,” she said. “I haven’t visited with her in two years,” she said.

She was hoping to visit her mother the week after she arrived, however there was an outbreak in the care home and it was closed down to outside visitors, except to the nominated care partner.

“So it is extremely important for me and my mother to see me, given the circumstances across in the states. The whole reason for coming home was to be able to visit her.”

Pamela was hoping she could visit next week in a pod, possibly with a protective barrier between them.

Physical contact with her mother is very important.

“I would say everybody can agree that the first thing you want to do when you see your mother - even if you have not seen her for two weeks or two years, the first thing you want to do is hug her - just to have that touch to let her know that there is someone there that wants to see her and hug her.”

She appealed to the authorities to let her see her mother. Pamela was tested the day she left Chicago and then had a 10-day quarantine during which she was tested twice. Both she and her mother are double vaccinated.

“I just feel if my mum is vaccinated and I am vaccinated, please at least once during my stay here could I just see the woman?”

Sandra Aitcheson, assistant director of nursing at the Public Health Agency (PHA), said: “Please come Pamela and talk to us. I think there are options.”

Citing exceptional circumstances, she added: “I think there is a solution”.

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