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LEARNING DISABILITY COMMUNITY RESPONDS TO VACCINE PRIORITISATION NEWS

All those on the GP learning disability register should be prioritised for a COVID-19 vaccine, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (KVCI) has advised the government.

All those on the GP learning disability register should be prioritised for a COVID-19 vaccine, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (KVCI) has advised the government.

Under this new guidance, 150,000 people at higher risk because of severe disabilities will be placed into group six of the prioritisation list and therefore offered their vaccine quicker in England.

Prior to this, 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. Adults with Down's Syndrome have also been offered a jab, in priority group four. 

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. 

“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.”

Several disability charities have welcomed the news but urged the government to make sure as many people with learning disabilities are identified as possible.

Responding to the announcement, Kirsty Matthews, CEO of disability charity Hft said: “It is great news that the new recommendations will mean more people with learning disabilities are prioritised for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Over the past year, the longstanding health inequalities faced by people with learning disabilities have been brought into sharp relief by the pandemic. This has all contributed to the sobering fact that people with learning disabilities are up to six times more likely to die from COVID-19. We hope that today’s announcement with regard to vaccinations helps to prevent further devastating and unnecessary loss of life. 

“To ensure that the vaccine rollout is thorough and comprehensive, it is vital that the government works with other agencies - including local authorities and care providers - to identify everyone with a learning disability who is eligible rather than rely on the GP Learning Disabilities Register.  

“Despite today’s announcement, we remain concerned by the continued lack of clarity about when everyone with learning disabilities, regardless of age, will be invited for vaccination. 

“Hft would therefore like to see the government follow Scotland’s example and clearly prioritise everybody with a learning disability to ensure that no one has to face an unnecessary wait for the COVID-19 vaccination.”

Richard Kramer, Chief Executive of charity Sense, said: “It’s wonderful news that the government has listened. Individuals and families will be so relieved and delighted by this development.

“It is right that those who are at a higher risk from the virus get the protection they need.

“We hope that further consideration will be given for other groups of disabled adults who aren't registered as having a learning disability, but have additional health conditions and face the same risks.”

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