THE decision to move disabled people considered especially vulnerable to Covid-19 further up the vaccine priority list has been welcomed as a victory for campaigners.
Furious activists questioned the decision to put disabled people seen as clinically extremely vulnerable – or CEV – far down the queue for a life-saving vaccine, despite high numbers of Covid-related deaths among older and disabled people.
But the new Government list means those considered CEV will now receive the same priority for a vaccine as those aged between 70 and 75.
Disabled peer Baroness Jane Campbell said she was “heartened” that those defined as CEV would have a higher priority.
She said: “This change of heart came as a direct result of disabled people’s campaigning efforts to get the government to think again, after it was clearly bought to their attention that thousands of disabled people would most certainly die if they caught Covid-19 and should therefore be vaccinated at a higher priority.
“It’s a shame that disabled people had to mount such an exhausting campaign to get the government and its vaccine expert working groups to fully realise the extent of some disabled people’s extreme risk.”
Other disabled campaigners were more hesitant about welcoming the changes.
Andrew Lee, director of People First (Self Advocacy), said he was “encouraged” that adults with Down’s syndrome had been added to the CEV list and would be higher priority for the vaccine.
But he added: “It is confusing to many of us, and somewhat discriminatory, to not include people with learning difficulties who do not have Down’s syndrome.”
Simone Aspis, director of Changing Perspectives, said the changes to the priority list were “not a substantial improvement”.
She said the reason so many people with learning difficulties were dying from Covid-19 was not just because of underlying health conditions, but because “the support is not there to be tested or understand the lockdown regulations or to do the basic things like washing your hands… or make sense of social distancing”.
There is currently no increased priority for disabled children under the age of 16, even if they are considered to be CEV to the virus. They must wait until everyone 50 and older has been vaccinated.