In response to today’s announcement about the approval of a COVID-19 vaccine, the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) has made the following statement:
Dr Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of VODG, said:
“We welcome news about improved access to care home visiting, and today’s announcement about the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine but remain seriously concerned that disabled people, and the services that support them, are continuing to be left behind.
“The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that older people living in care homes should be the highest priority for the vaccine. It is right to recognise this group as a priority.
“However, we are concerned that disabled people who use social care will continue to be overlooked. Throughout this pandemic the government has pursued a care homes first approach in the roll out of PPE, testing and now the vaccination programme. It has used Care Quality Commission categories for care home registration to implement its response. Yet this approach has meant that people who live in their own homes, and other care settings, such as supported living, have been omitted from the government’s policy response and organisations such as ours have had to continually call on government to strike a balance to ensure that disabled people’s services are put on an equal footing.
“Disabled people experienced significant health inequalities both prior to and during the pandemic. Deaths from COVID-19 amongst people with a learning disability were up to six times the rate seen in the general population.
“We are therefore concerned about the relative priority afforded to disabled people in the JVIC’s recommendations, especially given the evidence of health inequalities and higher rates of death associated with COVID-19. Indeed, VODG and others recently wrote to JCVI outlining concerns about the prioritisation of people with learning disabilities.
“As it stands, the government approach will continue to overlook disability services, and therefore leave disabled people, including those with profound learning disabilities, behind. We strongly urge government to commit to an inclusive and equitable approach as it develops its COVID-19 vaccination policy.”
Furthermore, VODG is calling for:
- Evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on disabled people, and the workforce supporting them, to be brought into scope as a matter of urgency.
- The roll out of the vaccination programme must work with disability services, and the voluntary sector, to ensure it reaches disabled people using a wide range of support services. It is important to recognise that disabled people use other services beyond older people’s care homes.
- An implementation policy that ensures reasonable adjustments are made to vaccine delivery, and for accessible information to be readily available to disabled people, their families and carers.