Parents of children with complex disabilities should be among the first in Scotland to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, a charity has said.

In a letter to Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman and deputy first minister John Swinney, disability charity Kindred has warned of the impact on vulnerable children if their parents contract the virus and are unable to provide care.

Last week, BioNTech and co-developers Pfizer said preliminary analysis showed their Covid vaccine could prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid-19.

One of its creators said the impact of the vaccine will kick in significantly over summer and life should be back to normal by next winter.

Prof Ugur Sahin, BioNTech co-founder, also raised hopes the jab could halve transmission of the virus, resulting in a "dramatic reduction in cases".

READ MORE: Pfizer Covid vaccine priority list - Who will be first in Scotland to get jab?

The charity's new report highlights the “devastating” impact of the pandemic lockdown on families of children with exceptional health needs.

The charity survey said the majority of parents of disabled children are struggling to cope during the pandemic and are getting by on an average of just five hours of broken sleep a night.


Its survey found that 93 percent of these families of those children experienced an impact on their ability to meet their children’s medical and care needs due to the pandemic.

And nearly two in three said that the impact of the pandemic on their ability to provide care was ‘big’ or ‘severe’.

Its survey of parents from 17 local authorities found that two out of every three parents said sleep deprivation was one of the main factors that impacted their ability to care for their children. The report said it was the norm for these parents to get an average of five hours of broken sleep per night.

Kindred has called for an urgent need to investigate the provision of overnight respite care across Scotland.

Over a third of parents received no respite care before the pandemic and this dropped to 60 per cent after the start of the pandemic.

"This highlights the importance of schools in supporting parents and giving them a break from caring. There is no doubt that schools are preventing crisis and family breakdown where a child has high care needs," the group said.

The charity said its evidence shows that parents were left caring entirely alone in the home environment and that there was an even greater impact on single parents. "Despite the high level of need of all the children, some parents did not even get a phone call from professionals during the pandemic. These parents fear falling sick and being unable to look after their vulnerable children," Kindred said.

The charity has written to the health secretary and the deputy first minister John Swinney, urging that these parents to be given priority when distributing the recently announced vaccine.

READ MORE: Coronavirus - Key questions remain over Pfizer vaccine's effectiveness and lasting immunity

Is wa was calling for public acknowledgement of the "extraordinary efforts" of these parents, many of whom had started shielding weeks before lockdown, and has asked for a letter from the Scottish Government to families. "Such a letter would enable parents to feel that their efforts had not gone unnoticed and, in some way, help them come to terms with the trauma experienced over this period," the charity said.

Alex Davey from East Lothian cares for her six-year-old son Benjamin, who is fed through a tube and has epilepsy and a need for overnight ventilation.

When the pandemic began, Benjamin's respite and at-home care services were stopped.

Since March, he has been taken to hospital six times.

Ms Davey said her main concern is that she and her husband will get Covid-19, leaving them unable to care for their son.

Sophie Pilgrim, director of Kindred, said the pandemic has had a devastating impact on families of children with complex needs.

She said: "Many families started shielding before schools closed with the loss of all care and support.

Some of these children require two to one support in school and other care settings, and yet parents had to cope from March to August, many with no help at all.

"As the vaccine becomes available, we must prioritise parents who are providing medical care for their children and cannot afford to get sick themselves."

She added: "Many parents received no respite care before the pandemic, and those that did lost their care with lockdown. Serious sleep deprivation puts parents at risk of depression, accidents and long-term conditions.

"We need to recognise the long-term exhaustion of these families. Special schools are all the more important and need to be supported to carry on their excellent work and to keep their doors open."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "The health secretary has already committed to providing more details to parliament on the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines and, with the agreement of parliament, she aims to do this shortly.

"We are working with the Welsh government, the Northern Irish government, and the UK government to procure Covid-19 vaccines on a four nations basis.

"We will prioritise to protect those considered to be most at risk, in line with the forthcoming final advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI).

"All NHS boards stand ready to assist with the delivery of the vaccine to the local population as part of the national plan."