Care England, the largest representative body of independent adult social care providers, has been very supportive of the speed and manner in which COVID-19 vaccines have been rolled out to priority group one; however, it remains concerned that individuals with a learning disability have not been given a higher priority.
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, says: “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”.
People with learning disabilities fit in different cohorts of priority depending on how their learning disability has been classified according to the priorities set out by the JCVI in the Green Book on vaccines. Based upon the current cohorts outlined in the Green Book, individuals with severe and profound learning disabilities are placed under Priority Group 6, whilst only individuals with Down’s Syndrome are listed as clinically extremely vulnerable and thus placed under Priority Group 4. There are of course other health conditions that someone may have that will change their priority grouping.
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. Whilst 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 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. Although those with a severe or profound learning disability have been prioritised, we would have anticipated that given the increased risk of mortality, they would have subsumed a higher priority.
Martin Green continues: “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”.