News

Call for people with learning disabilities to be prioritised for vaccinations in Wales after guidance change

24 Feb 2021 3 minutes Read
Covid-19 vaccine

Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives have called on the Welsh Governments to prioritise those with learning disabilities for vaccines following updated medical advice.

The JCVI has updated its information to recommend prioritising those with learning difficulties and unpaid carers.

Delyth Jewell MS, who had been campaigning for the change in policy, said the Welsh Government now had to U-turn on the matter.

Angela Burns MS, the Conservative Shadow Minister for Health, also urged “speed” on the matter.

Speaking at today’s Welsh Government coronavirus briefing, health minister Vaughan Gething said they would consider the new JCVI advice.

“Within the last 30 minutes or so the JCVI has issued updated information on prioritising the vaccine for people with learning disabilities,” he said.

“As I stand here, my team are urgently determining how this information impacts on our plans here in Wales.”

John Gillibrand, whose autistic son Adam has not yet been vaccinated, had campaigned on the media for a change to the policy.

“As a family we have had great anxiety as we have waiting for our learning disabled son Adam to receive the vaccine,” he said.

He also praised Plaid Cymru’s Delyth Jewell saying that she had been “a determined and effective advocate for people with learning disabilities. We have found from first-hand what an asset she is to public life in Wales.”

‘Delighted’

Delyth Jewell had asked the First Minister to change the policy in FMQs a fortnight ago, and sent a letter which included the evidence in favour of changing the policy after he refused to do so.

The First Minister’s argument was that he could not prioritise any group unless the JCVI had advised doing so, but this was undermined, Plaid Cymru said, when his Health Minister took the unilateral decision to move police medics to group 2.

“I’m delighted that the Welsh Government has finally listened to the plea from families of those with learning disabilities and prioritised them for vaccination,” Delyth Jewell said.

“This will bring huge relief for the people I’ve been speaking with over the past few weeks who have been worried sick about their loved ones.

“Their anxiety could have been alleviated weeks ago, had the Welsh Government changed the policy at the point when the evidence first became clear that this group was extremely clinically vulnerable, being between 6 and 30 times more likely to die from COVID-19.

“They wasted weeks in seeking to unnecessarily change the advice before changing the policy. However justice has finally been secured with a hugely significant U-turn that has the potential to save many lives.”

Commenting after today’s Covid briefing, Angela Burns MS, the Shadow Minister for Health, said she welcomed the Minister’s pledge that all adults in Wales will have been offered a first Covid jab by the end of July.

“Of course, this is being made possible because of the UK Government’s procurement policy, which has seen it pulling for all nations in the UK, demonstrating the value of a strong Union,” she said.

“However, Labour must deliver at speed its policy – following new guidance by the JCVI – on offering prioritised vaccinations to people with learning disabilities, who have seen vastly disproportionate fatality rates with Covid.”

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