All adults on the learning disability register will be invited to get a coronavirus vaccine following advice from the Joint Committtee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
Those with severe learning disabilities are already included in priority group six, while adults with less severe conditions are not prioritised but the JCVI said the health service should now invite all those on the GP learning disability register after analysis found they were at higher risk of death and serious illness.
The care minister, Helen Whately, responding to updated advice from the JCVI, said: “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.
“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.”
Public Health England said the move will mean at least 150,000 more people with learning disabilities will be offered the vaccine more quickly.
It follows Jo Whiley’s plea for people such as her sister, Frances, to be vaccinated as fast as possible. Last week, the BBC Radio 2 DJ, 55, spoke of the “nightmare” of being offered the vaccine before her 53-year-old sister, who has the rare Cri du Chat genetic syndrome. Frances later tested positive for coronavirus following an outbreak in her Northampton care home and was admitted to hospital.
Prof Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 chair of the JCVI, said: “The JCVI’s advice on Covid-19 vaccine prioritisation was developed with the aim of preventing as many deaths as possible. People who are severely affected by learning disabilities are at higher risk of death from Covid-19.
“As the severity of any disability may not be well recorded in GP systems, JCVI supports the NHS operational plan for anyone on the GP learning disability register to be invited now for vaccination as part of priority group six, and to reach out in the community to identify others also severely affected by a learning disability but who may not yet be registered.”