PM Urged To Give Vaccine Priority To People With Learning Disabilities

Exclusive: Lib Dem leader Ed Davey also calls on Boris Johnson to act urgently on “appalling discrimination” people with learning disabilities have faced in the pandemic.

Boris Johnson has been urged to move people with learning disabilities further ahead in the queue for the coronavirus vaccines.

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey, who is a carer for his disabled son, said people with learning disabilities have been “totally forgotten” by the government and that those with moderate and mild difficulties should be prioritised for jabs.

Davey also urged the prime minister to act “urgently” in response to an investigation by the Care Quality Commission into “shocking” reports that Covid patients with learning disabilities are being given do-not-resuscitate orders without consultation.

In a letter to the PM, Davey described it as another “another example of the appalling discrimination that many people with learning disabilities have suffered throughout this pandemic”, and called for their treatment to be a “priority” in any Covid public inquiry.

People with Down’s syndrome should have already had the vaccine as they are in priority group four under official guidelines, while those with severe and profound learning disabilities are in priority group six.

But many with a mild or moderate learning disability have not been prioritised at all, despite concerns that they could be at greater risk from the virus.

Davey questioned the priority list, which was decided by the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisations (JCVI), highlighting Public Health England research showing people with learning disabilities aged 18 to 34 could be 30 times more likely to die of Covid than people the same age without any disability.

The research estimated that across all age groups, people with learning disabilities had a Covid death rate 6.3 times higher than the general population.

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey is a carer for his disabled son
Lib Dem leader Ed Davey is a carer for his disabled son
Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

Davey said “existing measures for assessing risk of severe illness and death exclude some important factors that may put those with learning difficulties at greater risk”.

“Many struggle to communicate when describing symptoms which could lead to severe Covid symptoms being missed or misdiagnosed and can find understanding social distancing rules difficult,” he said.

“Other factors include accommodation, a significant number of people with learning disabilities live in communal settings or homes where Covid spreads easily and quickly.

“This puts all people with learning disabilities at a higher risk than the wider population and is why even those with moderate and mild learning difficulties should be prioritised for the vaccine regardless of their age or health.”

Davey added: “We urge you to make people with learning disabilities a priority in the public inquiry you promised - and that all policies that impact people with learning difficulties are reviewed in detail so that the mistakes that have been made are never repeated.

“We also urge you to prioritise everyone with a learning disability for the vaccine.

“They have fallen through the cracks too often in this pandemic and the government must take action to ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes it made at the beginning of this crisis.”


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