150,000 more people with learning disabilities to be prioritised for Covid-19 jabs

24 February 2021, 12:15 | Updated: 24 February 2021, 15:02

People with severe and profound learning disabilities will be given immediate priority in the Covid vaccine rollout.
People with severe and profound learning disabilities will be given immediate priority in the Covid vaccine rollout. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

More than 150,000 people with severe and profound learning disabilities will be given immediate priority in the Covid vaccine rollout, after updated advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

As adults who are at high-risk from Covid complications, these disabled people are already in Group 6 of the vaccine priority list.

Adults with Down’s syndrome, who face a particularly high risk of severe outcomes were prioritised for the vaccine in group 4 and so should already have received their first dose.

However, the JCVI is now advising the NHS to invite all people on the GP learning disability register for vaccination.

They are also calling for the NHS to work with local authorities to identify adults in residential and nursing care, and those who require support in the community, who may not be registered.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he "warmly welcome[d]" the JCVI advice and has "asked the NHS to implement [it] immediately".

Professor Wei Shen Lim, JCVI Covid-19 chairman, said the advice “was developed with the aim of preventing as many deaths as possible” and is kept under review as new evidence emerges.

Reacting to the change, Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi tweeted: “Following the JCVI’s updated advice and to make this process simpler and faster, we will be inviting everyone for vaccination who is on their GP’s learning disability register.

“This will mean those who are at a higher risk from the virus can get the protection they need.”

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Meanwhile, Minister for Care Helen Whately said: “I have heard first-hand how tough this pandemic has been for people with learning disabilities and their families.

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

The change in advice from the JCVI comes after LBC revealed people with a learning disability were facing a “postcode lottery” to get a Covid vaccine.

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Different areas in the country had different rules on who was eligible. Some health authorities, like Kent and Medway were going to give all people with a learning disability a priority vaccine, while many were not.

High profile figures, including presenter Jo Whiley have been campaigning on the issue. The radio show host was offered the vaccine before her sister, who has a learning disability and diabetes and was later hospitalised in a serious condition with Covid.

Action was even underway to launch legal proceedings against Health Secretary Matt Hancock over the lack of prioritisation for people with learning disabilities.