What unpaid carers need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine…

If you provide regular, unpaid care to an elderly or disabled person, you are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination.

Unpaid carers have been classed as priority 6 on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) list of who will get the vaccine and when – the same as people aged 16 to 64 with long-term conditions.

This means that if you haven’t been contacted by your GP or the NHS to come along for your vaccine, you should hear from us any time now – but we need to know that you are a carer first. Many people aren’t sure who qualifies as an unpaid carer, and wonder how they should register – we explain…

Who counts as a carer in the UK?

The normal definition of a carer is someone who provides support to a family member or friend, who could not manage without this help. They might rely on you because they are frail, have a disability, an illness or a mental health problem. 

The form this caring takes could range from assistance getting up, bathed and dressed in the morning to the emotional support needed by someone with a mental illness to cope with everyday tasks. You don’t need to live with the person you support to be their carer and there is no standard definition of how much time you should spend caring to register.

How do I register?

If you are an unpaid carer, and your GP doesn’t already know, you’ll need to get in touch so you can be contacted about the vaccine. Many GPs have a simple form on their website, which you can fill in. If they don’t, you should write in, email them or give them a call – please be patient, GPs are exceptionally busy at the moment managing the vaccine roll out.

If you plan to write to or email your GP, the charity Carers UK has some letter templates, which you can use. Being registered as a carer also means your GP can offer you additional support, such as an annual health review and a free winter flu vaccine.

Southfields GP Dr Caroline Scott said: “Many people don’t think of themselves as carers. They’d probably call themselves a husband, mother, daughter or friend, who’s just doing what anyone would do. Yet without the care and support they provide, their friend or loved one wouldn’t be able to manage. This is why it’s so important for carers to look after themselves and get the COVID-19 vaccine. And why it’s vital that anyone who provides unpaid care, lets their GP know, so we’re ready when it’s their turn.”