People with learning disabilities WILL be prioritised for Covid vaccines after Jo Whiley's campaign
MORE Brits with learning disabilities will be prioritised for Covid jabs by the NHS.
Government advisors urged GPs to invite 150,000 extra people after research revealed they were at higher risk of death.
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It comes as DJ Jo Whiley pleaded for people such as her sister Frances – who has a rare genetic syndrome – to be vaccinated as quickly as possible.
The BBC presenter has previously questioned why she was offered her vaccine before Frances, 53, who has Cri du Chat genetic syndrome.
Frances caught Covid in her care home just days before she was set to be jabbed and was left "fighting for her life" in hospital.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had already said people with severe and profound learning disabilities are part of group six – all adults aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions.
It meant adults with less severe learning disabilities are not currently prioritised.
But the JCVI is now advising the NHS to invite all people on the GP Learning Disability Register for their jab, regardless of how severe their disability is.
Recent analysis for the JCVI showed a higher risk of mortality and morbidity in those on the GP register with the most severe learning disabilities.
It said GP systems may not always capture the severity of someone's disability, meaning some adults would have been missed under group six.
The JCVI is also calling for the NHS to work with local authorities to identify adults in residential and nursing care, and those who require support in the community, who may not be registered.
This will mean at least 150,000 more people with learning disabilities will now be offered the vaccine more quickly, it said.
Whiley called it a "seismic day", adding: "This is a great day – I am so relieved, I'm so happy for all those people who've been living in fear.
"I'm very grateful to the Government for listening, because it's a very complicated situation and it's very difficult to categorise people according to their disability, it's very, very tricky and that's become apparent I think over the past few months.
"And so this is clear, this encompasses everybody, and all those people who have been feeling very neglected, feeling like they don't matter, that we don't care, now know that we will be protecting them.
"This is absolutely crucial and I could not be more delighted. This is a massive step forward."
The DJ also told the BBC the change "was going to prevent other people dying".
Whiley's sister has now been discharged from hospital after what was the "worst week" of her life.
On Tuesday, she tweeted a video of her sister putting her thumbs up and clapping, updating followers: “It’s hard to believe we’ve gone from discussing palliative care on Friday night to sitting on her favourite bench drinking cups of tea.”
Professor Wei Shen Lim, COVID-19 Chair for JCVI, said: “We supports the NHS operational plan for anyone on the GP Learning Disability Register to be invited now for vaccination as part of priority group 6, and to reach out in the community to identify others also severely affected by a learning disability but who may not yet be registered.”
Professor Anthony Harden, JCVI deputy chairman, acknowledged there had been some inequalities in the rollout to those with learning disabilities.
He told the Science and Technology Committee that letting local leaders to decide was “the most straightforward way” but added: “I do accept that has led to some inequalities throughout the country.”
Care minister Helen Whately, responding to updated advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, 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.”
The JCVI is focused on jabbing those who are at most risk of Covid death first, followed by those most at risk of Covid hospitalisation.
It comes after data published in February revealed disabled people made up six in 10 of all deaths involving Covid in England.
The risk of death three times greater for more severely disabled people, according to the figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Of 50,888 deaths from January 24 to 20 November 2020, 30,296 were disabled people – 59.5 per cent.
Disabled people made up 17.2 per cent of the study population, therefore suggesting that they have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
Disability was self-reported by people from the 2011 Census, and included those whose day-to-day activities were “limited a little” or “limited a lot”.
Richard Kramer, chief executive of national disability charity Sense, said: “Disabled people are three times more likely to die from Covid-19, than non-disabled people. This is even greater for particular groups, such as those with a learning disability.
“And yet, throughout this pandemic, disabled people and their needs haven’t been prioritised.”
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