Scope Chair urges Matt Hancock to prioritise disabled people in Covid-19 vaccine roll-out
7 December 2020
Dear Secretary of State,
I am writing to you in my role as Chair of the disability equality charity Scope to ask you to do two simple things which could prevent thousands of young disabled people from dying needlessly.
Will you, as a matter of urgency, prioritise disabled people in the roll-out of any vaccine and in the access to non-Covid-19 health screening and treatment. It’s necessary to do both these simple things to prevent the avoidable deaths of thousands of disabled young people and to improve the life expectancy of hundreds of thousands of others.
At Scope we welcome today’s news that a vaccine has been approved and that the JCVI is revising the priority list for the vaccine’s rollout. However, we are concerned that there are a number of groups who are at considerable risk and who merit further attention.
Half of all deaths from Covid-19 in the UK in the under 65s were disabled people. On top of this, Public Health England’s recent report into the impact of Covid-19 on those with a learning disability found this group are 6 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than the general population. A lost future for each of them, a tragedy for their families, and a lost opportunity for diversity and inclusion for all of us.
On the urgent matter of access to health care, disabled people face a compounding of risk when a second health issue is joined to a disability. There is a disproportionate risk of serious illness and death if disabled people cannot access healthcare to address or prevent non-Coronavirus related health conditions.
ONS research highlights that 43 per cent of disabled people state that Coronavirus has affected their access to healthcare for non-Coronavirus related issues, compared to 20 per cent of the general population. Of these, 40 per cent of disabled people say their health has deteriorated since the start of the pandemic as a result of this reduced access.
Disabled people tell Scope that access to routine treatments have been delayed or cancelled over the past 7 months. And many have struggled to access prescriptions and medicine since the pandemic began.
On the grounds of the above evidence, we believe Government and the JCVI must prioritise access to vaccines for disabled people with high support needs and for younger disabled people as well as prioritise all disabled people for access to screening and treatment of other serious conditions.
Scope would be most willing to meet with your officials to discuss further.
Cc: Marsha De Cordova
7 December 2020