Leading disability charity Leonard Cheshire is supporting the news that all people on the learning disability register will be prioritised for a COVID-19 vaccination, following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The news means 150,000 people at higher risk with severe disabilities will be offered a jab more quickly in England. But those with mild learning disabilities should not expect to be prioritised.

Hugh Fenn, Managing Director of UK Community Services for Leonard Cheshire said: “Adults with learning disabilities we support in supported living services will now crucially be able to get protection sooner because of this change.

“Good progress has undoubtedly been made in the vaccination programme at care homes such as ours in recent weeks. But it’s also important that disabled people who live independently in supported living services get the opportunity to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

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“It’s vital that disabled people at greatest risk in the wider community are prioritised as the Government attempts to meet its longer term targets.”

The JCVI advised in its report to the UK Government that all individuals with Down’s syndrome should be offered vaccination in priority group 4.

JCVI also advised that those with severe and profound learning disabilities, and those with learning disabilities residing in residential care, should be offered vaccine in group 6.

Those with a wide range of neurological and respiratory conditions have been advised to be vaccinated in priority group 6.

There are 1.2 million people with a learning disability in England – but only a quarter to a third of them, or 250,000, are thought to be on the GP learning disability register.

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.

The charity Mencap said the announcement was “fantastic news for people with a learning disability”.

“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,” said the charity’s Jackie O’Sullivan.

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