Mum says daughter with learning disabilities should have been given Covid vaccine 'urgently'

  • Video report by ITV Wales reporter Ian Lang

The mother of a woman with severe learning disabilities says people like her daughter should have been "urgently" prioritised for a Covid vaccine.

Mo Robinson, from Mold in Flintshire, says a vaccine would not only protect the physical health of people like her daughter Amy, but also improve their current quality of life.

Figures show people with a learning disability are up to six times more likely to die of coronavirus.

Amy, 27, has a number of health conditions, including profound multiple learning disabilities. She lives in a specialist bungalow alongside another resident, supported by a team of eight carers.

Before the pandemic hit, Mo used to have Amy home to stay for a night every 10-14 days, but since March she has only been able to have her daughter home a handful of times.

Amy is now virtually housebound, because her learning disabilities mean she is unable to wear a mask or socially distance in line with Covid regulations.

Mo said: "She may be 27, but developmentally she's probably a baby. She has no understanding at all of what [the pandemic] is.

"Because she can't go out, I've noticed her becoming more withdrawn and agitated. She self-harms; biting her hand in frustration and drawing blood. It's worrying and frustrating.

"I also feel like if she caught Covid, she could die. She's non-verbal so can't tell people what's wrong, and she wouldn't tolerate wearing an oxygen mask or having treatment."

Mo Robinson says she has fought for her daughter for 27 years. Credit: Robinson family

Mo said she wants her daughter vaccinated "urgently" but has still not been given a date. She believes Amy and others with learning disabilities have been "forgotten".

"Amy doesn't have a voice. A lot of adults with learning disabilities don't have a voice," she said.

"But I'll keep campaigning. If anything happened to Amy, I couldn't live with myself if I hadn't fought for her."

Mo, who cared for Amy at home with her husband and son for 20 years, said this is among the hardest battles she has ever taken on for her daughter.

"I've fought for her for 27 years," she said.

"Getting the right equipment, resources - it's been a nightmare.

"But this... this is something that I can't control."

Mo Robinson says she believes her daughter should have been vaccinated sooner.

Currently, people who have a 'severe or profound learning disability' have been placed in priority group six for a vaccine.

This group includes all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions, which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality.

But due to the risks, many believe those with a serious learning disability should have been among the first to be vaccinated.

Priority group six does also not include people with a mild or moderate learning disability, who are instead being vaccinated based on age along with the rest of the healthy population.

The organisation Mencap has campaigned for people who live in residential and supported living to be prioritised for a vaccine.

They have pointed out that the risks are higher within shared living accommodation, where people share kitchen, bathroom and living room facilities, and containing the spread is harder.

A spokesperson for Mencap said: "We believe the evidence shows they should have been included in priority group one, alongside older people living in care homes.

"Prioritising people with a learning disability would have saved many families a great deal of worry."

Mo says Amy's mental health has suffered as a result of lockdown. Credit: Robinson family

The issue of Covid vaccines for people with learning disabilities made headlines last week after a high profile radio DJ spoke out about her family's own experiences.

Jo Whiley said she cannot understand why she was offered the Covid vaccine before her younger sister, who has learning disabilities and diabetes.

Whiley said she was "living through a nightmare" after her sister Frances, 53, suffered a coronavirus outbreak at her care home, adding that the effect on her sister's mental health had been “quite extreme”.

She later confirmed Frances had contracted the virus and spoke of the family's "anguish".

Jo Whiley was offered the Covid vaccine before her sister, who has diabetes and learning difficulties. Credit: PA Images

This week, health minister Vaughan Gething said he is taking advice on making people with learning disabilities a higher priority for a vaccine.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended that people with severe and profound learning disability should be vaccinated in the current priority group (six).

"That language is rarely used in Wales, where we use a social model of disability, and our preference is for inclusion over exclusion for this group of the population to ensure no one is missed or left behind.

“People have already started to receive invitations for a vaccine, including those living in supported accommodation. Others will do so over the weeks ahead.”

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