All people on the GP Learning Disability Register will be invited for a COVID-19 vaccine, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has announced.
The news means that a further 150,000 people will be prioritised for vaccination as part of priority group six.
Minister of Care Helen Whately said those registered would be invited for vaccination to ensure people at higher risk of the disease were protected as soon as possible.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
The JCVI remains of the view that those at greatest risk are patients with severe and profound learning difficulties, but backed the expansion of cohort six after analysis “confirmed a higher risk of mortality and morbidity in those on the GP register with learning disabilities”.
Jackie O’Sullivan, executive director of Communication, Advocacy & Activism at learning disability charity Mencap, said: “This is a hugely welcome announcement, and fantastic news for people with a learning disability. Now everyone on the GP Learning Disability Register can get access to the COVID vaccine.
“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. 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.”
Dr Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of VODG, also welcomed the news, but warned that more work needs to be done to ensure that all disabled people are offered a vaccine.
“Today’s announcement will be of great relief to many families, but we must also hope that this has been a lesson in listening for the government and it will finally commit to an inclusive and equitable approach in its COVID-19 policy responses for everyone with a disability, especially given that we know disabled people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic,” he said.
The news follows the announcement from the Scottish Government that all people with a learning disability, including those with a ‘mild or moderate’ learning disability, will be prioritised for a vaccine in the next phase of the programme.