Health authorities should make vaccines available for carers, chaplains and priests who conduct funerals “as a matter of priority”, the Council for Healthcare of the Bishops’ Conference has said.
The bishops also “urge everyone to support the vaccination programmes currently in place in the Republic and in Northern Ireland” in a statement released today (February 24).
“We call for the Department of Health and public health authorities to make vaccines available to carers in the Republic of Ireland as a matter of priority and to priests who are chaplains to nursing care facilities and who preside at funerals,” the bishops say.
The call comes as Minister Patrick O’Donovan and Bishop Denis Nulty expressed their hope to The Irish Catholic that priests be treated as “essential workers” when it comes to the vaccine.
In Northern Ireland, the vaccine is now available to people over 65 and to others who are clinically vulnerable, while in the Republic of Ireland it is available people aged 70 and upwards.
The council reiterates the message of the Irish bishops that vaccination is “not only for their own good, but for the protection of life and the health of those who are vulnerable and for the common good of humanity”.
The bishops “encourage all parishes and Church personnel to promote this programme and to encourage elderly parishioners, relatives and neighbours to avail of the opportunity to protect their health and the health of the whole community”.
The vaccination programme provides “reassurance” and “will help us to return to normality in terms of work, education, religious practice, and sporting and leisure activities as soon as possible”.
The bishops welcome the fact that “all residents and staff of nursing care facilities have been vaccinated at this stage”.
The statement provides information for Northern Ireland residents who are the main carers in a home for those who are elderly or disabled – the carers can now book a vaccination online at one of the seven trust centres.
An appointment can be made at https://covid-19.hscni.net/get-vaccinated or, if you cannot access the internet, by telephone at 0300 200 7813
Bishop Michael Router, auxiliary bishop of Armagh, is chair of the Council for Healthcare of the Bishops’ Conference.