I really welcome today’s news that the Government is finally listening to our concerns and is U-turning on the issue of vaccine prioritisation for people with learning disabilities, meaning 150,000 people on the learning disability register will now be able to receive a vaccine.
I have been in touch with local organisations who work with people in Hallam with learning disabilities, and individuals who this has affected, and I know this change will make a huge difference for so many of them.
In December last year, during a debate in Parliament on the effect of Covid-19 on people with learning disabilities, I raised a number of issues with Government Ministers, including the disproportionate effect of Covid-19 on this group, the dangerous reduction in service provision, and the importance of vaccine prioritisation. You can watch my speech here. I’ve raised the issue with the CCG locally.
Whilst the success of the vaccine roll out is providing a much needed light at the end of the tunnel for so many of us, the Government must learn from their repeated failures to ensure those that need the vaccine most are prioritised. When the prioritisation lists were first published, I worked with campaigners to secure changes so that those at very high risk from coronavirus, who were made to shield, were given the same priority as the over 70s. Whilst I welcomed this change, like I welcome today’s news, I am concerned that the Government are not learning from these repeated U-turns.
I also recognise that there is a lot more to be done to right the wrongs of the past year, and ensure those with learning disabilities are never again disproportionately affected by this virus, or future public health crises. Too often during the past year those with learning disabilities have been an afterthought in the Government’s covid response, and the vaccine priority list was no exception. The needs of those with learning disabilities must be at the forefront of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, Covid-recovery plan, and all future policy.
As MP for Hallam, and as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, I will continue to hold the Government to account over this, to make sure the vaccine is rolled out quickly and fairly, and those with learning disabilities, who have suffered so much during the past year, are protected.