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Care England joins campaign to protect people with learning disabilities

Care England is calling for lessons to be learned from the first wave of the pandemic by prioritising individuals with a learning disability for the Covid-19 vaccine.

This comes after health bosses announced the vaccine is now being offered to residents at every eligible care home with older residents across England, but not in other care settings.

People with learning disabilities have been placed in different cohorts of priority depending on how their learning disability has been classified according to the priorities set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in the Green Book on vaccines.

Individuals with severe and profound learning disabilities are currently placed in Priority Group 6, while only individuals with Down’s Syndrome have been listed as clinically extremely vulnerable and placed in Priority Group 4.

Campaigners fear many others with a learning disability have been pushed to the back of the queue for vaccination despite being six times more likely to die from Covid-19 than their peers in the general population.

Professor Martin Green OBE, chief executive of Care England, said: ‘We hold that the government should remove the arbitrary distinction between prioritising those with a severe or profound learning disability and those with a mild or moderate learning disability, and place all those with a learning disability in Priority Group 4.

‘These vaccinations must be administered in the individual’s place of residence, as opposed to in vaccination hubs.’

The Public Health England (PHE) report Covid-19 deaths of people identified as having learning disabilities’, published in November 2020, outlined how deaths from Covid-19 amongst those with learning disabilities was up to six times higher than the rate experienced by the general population in the first wave of the pandemic.

While those with a learning disability aged between 18 to 34 were up to thirty times more likely to die. Care England called for lessons to be learned from the first wave of the pandemic by prioritising individuals with a learning disability for the Covid-19 vaccine and other public health measures will help safeguard some of society’s most vulnerable.

Martin Green said that, although those with a severe or profound learning disability have been prioritised, Care England would have anticipated that, given the increased risk of mortality, they would have been put in a higher priority.

‘Unfortunately, people with learning disabilities have been disproportionately affected by this dreadful virus and we want to do all that we can to protect care home residents and staff.

‘We have seen that an incredible scale of mobilisation is possible for the vaccination and we want to harness this to protect the 1.5 million people with a learning disability.’

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We know this is a uniquely challenging period for people across the country, and the NHS is working tirelessly to vaccinate people most at risk, as quickly as possible.

‘The government is closely following the advice from independent experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on which groups of people to prioritise for Covid-19 vaccines.

‘The JCVI looked extensively at all the available data, including data on people with learning difficulties, and advised the most immediate priority should be to prevent deaths of clinically extremely vulnerable individuals and protect health and care staff on the frontline.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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