As the UK hits a crucial milestone in vaccinating all care home residents, people with a learning disability have once again been left behind.
Those with a learning disability living in care homes do not have equal access to the vaccine so, whilst older care homes residents are the number one priority for the vaccine, young people with a learning disability in care homes or other social care settings are in group 6 on the vaccine priority list despite being at serious risk of COVID.
Edel Harris, Chief Executive of the learning disability charity Mencap, said: “We’ve seen the tragic consequences of not throwing a protective ring around people who rely on social care during the first lockdown. The Prime Minister must remember that it isn’t just people in care homes who need priority access – around half of the social care budget goes to working-aged disabled adults who mostly live in their own homes or supported living settings. People with a learning disability have died from COVID at over six times the rate of the general population, yet not all people with a learning disability who receive care are currently on the vaccine priority list. The Government must urgently give all people with a learning disability priority access to the vaccine – it will save lives.”
Even before coronavirus, people with a learning disability faced serious health inequalities and had a significantly lower life expectancy – with women dying on average 27 years younger and men dying 22 years younger. This means a 53 year old woman with a learning disability is in a similar position as an 80 year old without a learning disability who is being vaccinated now, but she may not get access to the vaccine until May.
And outside of care settings, only those who have Down’s syndrome or a severe or profound learning disability are on the priority list at all – meaning people with a mild or moderate learning disability aren’t currently prioritised. This is despite LeDeR data stating that 65% of people with a learning disability who died from COVID in fact had a mild or moderate learning disability (LeDeR data).