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Heroes of 2021: Campaigners want people with learning disabilities prioritised for COVID vaccine

Steven Dowden

Campaigners are trying to pass a new guideline which will see people with learning disabilities jump the queue for the COVID-19 vaccination in Wales.

An academic has said those with the condition aged 35 or over carry the same risk of dying to a person over 80 as well as health and social care workers.

The statement comes after a Public Health England report says people with learning disabilities are six times more likely to die from coronavirus compared to somebody of their same age.

Responding to campaign the Welsh Government has said they arranged the priority groups in conjunction with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

Pauline Dowden believes her son Steven (pictured above), 35, who has autism and severe learning disabilities should be prioritised for the jab.

She told BBC News: "His oral skills are very poor, and his speech is like a two-year-old's. He's also very obese, 6ft 3in, and 32 stone. He was always big but he's put on a lot of weight since the Covid outbreak, because his activities - like walking, swimming and basketball - stopped."

Mrs Dowden wants Steven, who lives in sheltered accommodation, to have the vaccine the same time his team of carers are called for the injection.

The mum added she believes people with learning disabilities have been “forgotten about”.

Kate Young, director of the All Wales Forum of Parents and Carers of People with Learning Disabilities, backs the campaign.

She said: "When it comes to supported living it feels like we have a disparity.

"Understandably we have focused on ensuring that care homes residents and care home staff are getting the vaccination, but on equal parity so that residents are receiving the vaccination alongside the staff member, in order to ensure the risk of Covid-19 is eradicated from those settings."

Prof Stuart Todd from intellectual disability research at the University of South Wales said: "If you give vaccinations to the same number of people with learning disabilities that you might provide to people in the general population you will save more lives. The impact is huge."

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: "People with severe and profound learning disabilities will usually be classed by their clinician as clinically extremely vulnerable, whilst other people with learning disabilities which are less complex are included in priority group six."

There are about 3,500 adults with learning disabilities living in supported accommodation in Wales.

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