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Covid: 150,000 with learning disabilities to be prioritised for vaccine

Jo Whiley with her sister Frances (left)

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All people on the learning disability register should now be prioritised for a Covid vaccine, the joint committee on vaccination has advised the government.

This means 150,000 more people at higher risk being offered a jab more quickly in England.

It follows DJ Jo Whiley’s plea for people such as her sister, Frances, to be vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Whiley was offered the vaccine before her sister, who has a rare genetic syndrome and lives in residential care.

The broadcaster’s sister is recovering after being admitted to hospital with coronavirus earlier this week.

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.

And adults with Down’s Syndrome have already been offered a jab, in priority group 4, as part of the UK’s target to vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February.

Now everyone on the GP learning disability register will be invited for vaccination as part of priority group six, Public Health England has confirmed, regardless of how severe their disability is.

It comes after an analysis found that people registered with their GP as having a learning disability, who tend to be those at the more severe end, are more at risk of being seriously ill and dying from Covid.

But Prof Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the JCVI, said people with mild learning disabilities were at no greater risk than someone else of their age, and would not be prioritised.

However, Nicola Sturgeon announced that Scotland would prioritise all people with learning disabilities in group six on Monday. She said priority group six would be expanded to include those with mild or moderate learning disabilities.

A report from Public Health England in November found that people with a learning disability were up to six times more likely to die from Covid-19 and, in the 18-34 age group, their risk was 30 times higher.

At the time, the charity Mencap said the government had failed to protect a group already experiencing health inequalities.

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BBC News – Health

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