At the University of Pittsburgh’s National Center on Family Support, we have been closely following the COVID-19 vaccination rollout for unpaid family caregivers. We appreciate the work that state health departments have done to continually refine their prioritization scheme for COVID vaccine distribution, but we remain concerned about the lack of explicit attention paid to caregivers in many state distribution plans.

We at the National Center on Family Support urge the CDC to explicitly include family caregivers in the first phases of vaccination with healthcare workers and other high-risk groups. Family caregivers are on the front lines each day, providing necessary care for those at higher risk of COVID, and should be considered as healthcare workers when determining eligibility. It’s imperative that caregivers, whether paid or unpaid, are able to receive the vaccine, ensuring that they are able to continue providing this essential care, and protecting not only their own health but the health of those they provide care for.

Context: Currently, only 25 state plans explicitly include unpaid family caregivers in their prioritization scheme, and even these states vary widely in how they define caregiver eligibility. In some cases, eligibility is based on the age of the person they care for, or whether that person receives services funded by the state. Often, the information about eligibility is difficult to find, separate from the infographics used concisely communicate eligibility criteria to the general public.

 A handful of states specifically exclude caregiving as a criterion for vaccination, deferring to other eligibility criteria (age, personal health conditions, etc.). An additional 20 states do not specify family caregivers in any eligibility criteria.

As family caregivers await clear guidance from the CDC, Pitt’s Center on Family Support has created a vaccination tracker to monitor states’ inclusion of family caregivers in their distribution plans – that tracker is updated weekly, and can be viewed here.

The contents of this statement were developed under a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number 90RTGE0002). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this statement do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, or HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.