Disability News

Everyone on the GP learning disability register should be prioritised for a Covid vaccine, the joint committee on vaccination has advised the government.

This means 150,000 people at higher risk with severe disabilities will be offered a jab more quickly in England.

But those with mild learning disabilities should not expect to be prioritised.

It follows DJ Jo Whiley's plea for people such as her sister, Frances, to be vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Whiley was offered the vaccine before her sister, who has a rare genetic syndrome and lives in residential care.

The broadcaster's sister is recovering after being admitted to hospital with coronavirus earlier this week.

'So relieved'

"This is a great day, I am so relieved. I'm so happy for all those people who have been living in fear," Jo Whiley said, adding that it was "very difficult" to categorise people according to their disability.

The charity Mencap said everyone with a learning disability should check they are on the register and, if not, ask to go on it.

People with a "severe or profound" learning disability in England and Wales were already in priority group six for the coronavirus vaccine, along with unpaid carers for those with disabilities and the elderly.

And adults with Down's Syndrome have already been offered a jab, in priority group 4, as part of the UK's target to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February.

Now everyone on their GP's learning disability register will be invited for vaccination as part of priority group six, Public Health England has confirmed, regardless of how severe their disability is.

And the NHS is being asked to work with local authorities to identify other adults, in residential care or receiving support to live in the community, who are severely affected by a learning disability and may not be registered, but who should be offered a vaccine.

Risk from Covid

It comes after an analysis found that people registered with their GP as having a learning disability, who tend to be those at the more severe end, are more at risk of being seriously ill and dying from Covid.

There are 1.2 million people with a learning disability in England - but only a quarter to a third of them, or 250,000, are thought to be on the GP learning disability register.

Prof Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the JCVI, said all those with severe learning disabilities were "very disadvantaged" and should be reached out to - but he said including people with mild learning disabilities was not recommended because they were at no greater risk than someone else of the same age.

Speaking in front of a committee of MPs, he said he didn't want lots of families who might be concerned about their relative with a mild learning disability to start contacting GPs and "overwhelming them".

However, Nicola Sturgeon announced that Scotland would prioritise all people with learning disabilities in group six on Monday. She said priority group six would be expanded to include those with mild or moderate learning disabilities.

A report from Public Health England in November found that people with a learning disability were up to six times more likely to die from Covid-19 and, in the 18-34 age group, their risk was 30 times higher.

'Check the register'

The charity Mencap said the announcement was "fantastic news for people with a learning disability".

"It's now crucially important that everyone with a learning disability checks that they are on the register and asks to go on it if they are not," said the charity's Jackie O'Sullivan.

"Being on the register has many benefits and entitles people to annual health checks and prioritisation for future vaccinations, as well as allowing them to get the Covid vaccine and be confident they are protected."

Helen Whately, minister for care in England, said everyone who is on the GP's learning disability register would be invited for vaccination to protect those at higher risk from the virus.

"I have heard first-hand how tough this pandemic has been for people with learning disabilities and their families," she said.

"We are determined those more at risk from Covid should be vaccinated as soon as possible."

 

 

From BBC