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Proactive move to vaccinate adults with learning disabilities

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Vaccinations offering protection from serious illness caused by Covid-19 are to be offered to all adults with a learning disability (LD) at an earlier point in the programme than originally planned - at a bespoke hub.

The Island’s vaccination programme is currently following guidance on vaccinating priority groups as set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI). This means people with learning disabilities are due for jabs at different points in the programme:

  • People with Down’s syndrome have been placed in priority group 4, a category which includes those who are clinically extremely vulnerable
  • Adults with severe or profound learning disability are in priority group 6, which captures people aged between 16 and 65 who are clinically vulnerable
  • Residents with a learning disability and users of LD services who don’t fall within other priority groups are called up on the basis of their age

The Department of Health and Social Care has agreed due to the numbers involved that individuals in the Island who have a learning disability, or who are LD service users, will all be vaccinated with priority group 4. This will ensure the entire adult LD community is protected at an early stage and provides a practical approach to meeting the challenge of vaccinating this group.

The term learning disability covers a multitude of physical and mental health conditions, each of which manifests differently and sometimes, unpredictably. Consequently, rather than send people to one of the existing centres, vaccinations are to be offered to the LD community within a calm and familiar environment with staff that know them well and can provide appropriate support.

The Department has chosen the Greenfield Park/Tall Trees day services complex as the vaccination hub, as many adults with a learning disability from across the Island regularly enjoy the activities and support provided there. In addition, most service users are familiar with the Learning Disability specialist nurse and the other registered professionals who support the LD community.

Health and Social Care Minister David Ashford MHK said:

‘Our clinical advisory group has reviewed this matter extensively and made a clear recommendation to vaccinate all individuals with a learning disability in priority group 4. Due to the numbers involved we have made a clinical and operationally practical decision to vaccinate as one group rather than dividing between several groups.’

He added:

‘It is important to create a space where individuals will feel safe and comfortable when getting their vaccination whilst making the process as easy as possible, and we believe creating a small hub in a familiar environment is the best way to do this. I want to thank the team who are working to set this up’.

Plans are underway to run vaccination sessions in late March to coincide with the call-up of priority group 4. The hub will run for three days to provide plenty of time between appointments and to ensure everyone having their jab is reassured and comfortable.

The scheduling will be overseen by the Learning Disability Service Lead and the hub will be staffed by registered practitioners who work with the service, assisted by Tall Trees staff and support workers from elsewhere in the learning disability service.

Existing transport arrangements will bring service users to the complex for their jabs, and more information on the LD rollout will be provided to families and carers once the details have been finalised and patient lists have been drawn up.

All learning disability service users that live in residential care are being vaccinated as part of the care home rollout, with residents at the first learning disability home Cushag House in Port St Mary, receiving their jabs on Monday 15 February.