General practices should invite all patients on the learning disability register to have a Covid-19 vaccine as part of priority group six, the Government has said.
This will increase the cohort by ‘at least’ 150,000 patients, it added.
Previously, NHS England said GPs should identify patients with severe learning disability, who are eligible for the jab, based on ‘clinical discretion’.
But new advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) today said that all adults on the GP Learning Disability Register should be vaccinated as part of priority cohort six.
Others who are ‘severely affected’ but are not yet registered on the list should be identified, it added.
Public Health England (PHE) today said that this is because GP systems ‘may not always capture the severity of someone’s disability, meaning some adults who are more severely affected by learning disabilities may not be invited for vaccination alongside people with other long-term health conditions’.
The update follows an analysis of data from GP systems and the second wave of the pandemic that found a ‘higher risk of mortality and morbidity in those on the GP register with learning disabilities’, PHE added.
Those with ‘more severe’ disabilities are ‘more likely’ to be on the list, it said.
A PHE statement said: ‘To ensure those most at risk of death or hospitalisation are prioritised for vaccination, JCVI supports the plan to invite anyone on the GP Learning Disability Register – as well as adults with other related conditions, including cerebral palsy – for vaccination as part of priority group six.
‘This will mean at least 150,000 more people with learning disabilities will now be offered the vaccine more quickly.’
JCVI Covid-19 chair Professor Wei Shen Lim said: ‘People who are severely affected by learning disabilities are at higher risk of death from Covid-19.
‘As the severity of any disability may not be well recorded in GP systems, JCVI supports the NHS operational plan for anyone on the GP Learning Disability Register to be invited now for vaccination as part of priority group six, and to reach out in the community to identify others also severely affected by a learning disability but who may not yet be registered.’
Minister for care Helen Whately added that the update will make the vaccination process ‘simpler and faster’.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care added that there has been no change to the JCVI priority list and that the update is an operational clarification to ensure eligible patients are included in cohort six.
Lynne Ann Norman, professional lead for learning disability learning at the RCN, said: ‘Following those who have already been prioritised as the highest risk, we are very pleased to see that now all adults who have a learning disability will benefit from getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
‘Accessible information must be available to help them and their carers make informed choices to protect themselves from the virus.’
Earlier this month, experts warned that people with learning disabilities must be urgently prioritised to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, amid mounting evidence they are more likely to die from the virus.
Public Health England data from November found that people with learning disabilities in England were up to six times more likely to die from Covid-19, while the death rate for people aged 18 to 34 with learning disabilities was 30 times higher than the same age group without disabilities.