The parents of a clinically vulnerable two-year-old shielding since the start of the coronavirus crisis have hailed the vaccine as the “light at the end of the tunnel” as they anxiously wait to be invited for the jab.
Obie Bee has a condition called VACTERL association, which refers to a collection of birth defects that can occur together, affecting his spine, digestive system, kidneys and heart.
The toddler’s complex medical needs mean he is vulnerable to Covid-19 and the family-of-three, from Lincolnshire, began shielding in February last year.
Samantha Bee, 27, and her partner Daniel Bee, 36, fear contracting the virus and passing it on to their vulnerable son, as well as the potential of them both becoming ill and struggling to care for him.
“We’ve got family members but no one that could care for Obie full-time and meet all his needs,” Mrs Bee told the PA news agency.
“While they can probably change a stoma bag if we were to be out of action for more than a few days, then they still need to meet all the rest of his care needs.
“It’d be really difficult, really difficult, and then to try and keep him safe as well, it’s tough.”
On December 30, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) updated its guidance to recommend that unpaid carers should be added to the vaccine priority list.
Those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person are now included in priority group six, alongside people with underlying health conditions.
The two jabs currently being rolled out in the UK are not licenced for use in children, with secondary school age youngsters included in latter stages of ongoing trials.
Mrs Bee said that although it was “scary” not knowing if the two-year-old would be vaccinated, it would be “anxiety-relieving” if she and her partner received the jab.
“It is the light at the end of the tunnel at the minute,” she said. “You can almost see normality.
“We booked a holiday last year for the end of this year and it would be fantastic if we were still able to take Obie on his first abroad holiday.
“We’re not setting it in stone, we know that there’s going to be sort of a long journey this year, providing people get the vaccinations and you can build up that herd immunity as well.”
Mr Bee said that it would be “worst-case scenario” if the two-year-old contracted the virus, but the couple receiving the jab would “keep (Obie) that little bit safer than what he is at the minute”.
“It’s hard knowing that even if we could have a vaccine, he can’t at the minute, but we know that if we are vaccinated, it lessens the risk for him,” he added.
Contact, a charity for families with disabled children, which supports the Bee family, has written to vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi to ask for the priority list to be republished to include unpaid carers.
Amanda Batten, chief executive at Contact, said: “Vaccinating parent carers will not only protect them it will also offer some vital protection to their clinically vulnerable children, some of whom have been shielding since March.
“The parents we support are worried about two things – getting the virus and not being able to look after their child, and passing the virus on to their medically vulnerable children.
“We would welcome information on the approach the Government’s expert committee is taking to find an appropriate vaccine for children with long term and rare conditions.
“It might be that some of these children can’t have a vaccine and that’s why it’s so important that their parents are vaccinated as soon as possible.”