Call for vaccines to be prioritised for those with learning disabilities

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Call for vaccines to be prioritised for those with learning disabilities

After shocking statistic revealed, that children and young adults with learning disabilities are four times more likely to die of Covid, Jewish groups call for urgent protection

Children with special needs are four times more vulnerable to the pandemic
Children with special needs are four times more vulnerable to the pandemic

Jewish disability charities have called for children and young adults with learning disabilities to be prioritised for the vaccine, after shocking statstics revealed they are four times more likely to die of Covid-19.

The study by Public Health England also reveals the death rate for people aged 18 to 34 with learning disabilities is 30 times higher than the rate in the same age group without disabilities.

Despite the findings, first published in November, senior staff in the sector this week warned Jewish News that many of the community’s most vulnerable young adults are not being prioritised in the same way as those in elderly and residential care.

Richard Franklin, chief executive of Kisharon, which delivers support and education to adults and children with complex learning disabilities, expressed concern that the young adults he works with are not considered among the most vulnerable during the current lockdown, which is due to last until at least the middle of February.

He warned: “What’s quantitatively different about the current lockdown is the higher incidences of infections and asymptomatic infections. We’re not getting the same degree of testing (for young adults with learning disabilities) that is happening in the elder care sector and that is worrying because we are seeing infection rates rise.”

Jessica, left, relies on Kisharon’s support

Franklin also noted that Kisharon is yet to receive adequate personal protective equipment from local government. Some 95 percent of PPE used by the charity is currently sourced from donations or  commercial providers.

Last April, 20-year-old Yechiel Yosef Rothschild died after contracting Covid. He had Down’s Syndrome and lived in supported accommodation provided by Kisharon. A woman who used Kisharon’s adult day service also died after contracting the virus in hospital.

YY Rothschild

Despite the report finding that the death rate for adults in residential care is higher than for those without learning disabilities generally, care homes for adults with learning disabilities are not being prioritised for the vaccine.

As it stands, adults with learning disabilities are number six on the government’s priority list, unless they have Down’s Syndrome or a condition that makes them clinically extremely vulnerable, which puts them at number four.  

The Public Health England report analysed 623 reports of deaths that were definitely or possibly Covid-19 related among people with learning disabilities between 1 February and 5 June 2020. It surmised that the death rate was 240 per 100,000. This is 2.3 times the rate in the general population. However, after adjusting for under-reporting the estimated rate was 369 per 100,000 – 3.6 times the rate in the general population.

Norwood, which supports an estimated 4,000 vulnerable children and their families, said: “We are continuing to provide support, as best we can, to children and families using our services by offering them telephone advice. We are also making sure that the latest information about our services for children and families is easily accessible via our new Facebook group and are developing creative and helpful resources to support all parents to provide home education.”

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