Welsh Government have set out guidance that will result in more people with a learning disability being included in priority group 6.
This article explains who will be included, how people will be identified, where people will go for the vaccine, what happens next, advice and support (including easy read) and organisations that have worked together to assist a more inclusive approach.
Who is in priority group 6?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has set out that people with a severe/profound learning disability and individuals with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or any mental illness that causes severe functional impairment should be invited for vaccination in priority group 6. The guidance explains the criteria to use to identify individuals to go into this group and takes an ‘inclusive’ approach.
The guidance says: “We are providing practitioners with discretion to ensure no vulnerable person in these groups is missed or left behind”.
Who else will be included?
Although this category has not changed and therefore does not include all people with a learning disability, the methods of identifying people should result in more people being included:
They have identified certain additional ‘risk’ factors that ensure people are included:
- clinically vulnerable and frailty: The presence of pre-existing / co-occurring health conditions and level of complexity of those health conditions
- socio-economic factors
- type of accommodation: living in a communal setting, for example, in supported living or a residential rehabilitation setting
- unable to practise consistently, protective behaviours such as social distancing, wearing a mask and hand hygiene
- ability to adhere to treatment routine and tolerate intervention
- known to services such as a learning disability team.
How will people be identified?
Welsh Government will follow the principle and value of being more, rather than less, inclusive, to avoid missing those vulnerable people who should be vaccinated. They expect this to result in more people being prioritised under priority group 6 than might otherwise be the case based on a strict interpretation of the JCVI guidance.
Health Boards will work with partner organisations, including GPs, the local authority, community learning disability teams, families or carers, and third sector organisations.
The existing GP lists and identification codes for learning disability and serious mental illness will be loaded into the Welsh Immunisation System (WIS) and added to the priority group 6 list.
GPs will be given clinical discretion to add individuals to priority group 6, who may be eligible but not listed in the national system.
Where will people go for the vaccine?
GP surgeries are considered the best place for the vaccine, instead of mass vaccination centres, as people will probably feel less anxious in a familiar and smaller place. However it will be the person’s choice.
Reasonable adjustments will need to be identified and put in place to enable individuals to be supported and to feel confident to attend and receive their vaccination.
Where a best interest assessment is required to support capacity, existing best interest processes involving families, support staff and appointed advocates should be used wherever possible. The guidance provides more information on mental capacity and best interest decisions.
What happens next?
GPs will identify people and invite them for an appointment. At this stage of writing (3 March) people should not contact their GP. The Learning Disability Consortium* is asking Welsh Government for guidance on when people should contact their GP if they have not been called for vaccination.
Welsh Government have also issued Guidance on COVID-19 vaccination of eligible unpaid carers as part of priority group 6.
Further help and support
For help and advice please call the Wales Learning Disability Helpline: 0808 8000 300
Welsh Government Guidance: Covid-19 vaccinations for individuals with a learning disability or severe mental illness
Easy Read Welsh Government Guidance: Covid-19 vaccinations for individuals with a learning disability or severe mental illness – easy read (PDF)
Public Health Wales: Vaccine leaflets easy read (and other formats)
Learning Disability Wales: Easy read information on the Coronavirus vaccine
Learning Disability Wales: Coronavirus: resources for people with a learning disability and their supporters
Working with Welsh Government and Public Health Wales
Over the last few months the Learning Disability Consortium have been working closely with Welsh Government and Public Health Wales officials to ensure more people with a learning disability are added to the priority list. The Consortium welcomes the new inclusive approach.
Learning Disability Consortium campaign
The Learning Disability Consortium also launched a campaign, alongside talks with Welsh Government, to gain support from people in the learning disability sector. The campaign asked people to email their Member of the Senedd (MS) with a ready made message for more people to be included to the priority group 6. We would like to thank all those people who supported our campaign and emailed their member of the Senedd. Over 3,000 emails were sent.
Support from Delyth Jewell MS
We would also like to thank Delyth Jewell, Member of the Senedd for South Wales East, who has been campaigning for people with a learning disability to receive the vaccine and has worked closely with the consortium. She tweeted:
“It’s excellent news that people with learning disabilities will now be prioritised for vaccines. Well done to the many campaigners who’ve fought to change this policy – it’s about time. Unanswered questions still [remain] about the process, but today’s a day to celebrate.”
*The Learning Disability Consortium is made up of third sector national organisations working in Wales to promote the rights of people with a learning disability and their family carers. Membership includes All Wales Forum of Parents and Carers, All Wales People First, Cymorth Cymru, Down’s Syndrome Association, Learning Disability Wales, and Mencap Cymru.