Three-quarters of disabled shielders to continue until second vaccine dose

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Three-quarters of disabled people who are shielding plan to continue until after they have received two coronavirus vaccine doses, a survey has suggested.

About a quarter (24%) of disabled people were advised to shield by the Government as they are clinically extremely vulnerable and a further 22% had not been advised to but decided to do so anyway, according to research from Scope.

Three-quarters of these will continue shielding until they get a second dose but almost a quarter (23%) are concerned they will not be able to access a vaccination centre.

Many respondents who are shielding but not considered clinically extremely vulnerable said they chose to because they are worried their health conditions put them at higher risk.

Scope said this group faces months more of extreme isolation, without urgent action to raise them up the priority group list.

One in 20 said they had received all the social care support they needed while about one in 10 said they were able to get all the help they needed from their local council (11%) or the Government (10%).

A fifth of respondents said they felt unsafe receiving help from personal assistants and carers at home when considering the risk of contracting Covid-19.

The survey also found only a quarter of disabled people felt they were supported enough by supermarkets to keep themselves safe and 53% feel unsafe visiting a supermarket.

More than four in 10 (44%) said they had experienced difficulties getting food deliveries.

Natasha Coates, an elite disability gymnast, has mast cell activation syndrome and autism, and has been shielding since March.

She is currently unable to receive the vaccine as she is at high risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction and wants more information for people who cannot get a jab.

The 25-year-old from Nottingham said: “I can’t deal with this constant Covid anxiety any more. I am so burnt out and I’m not sure how long I can cope with shielding.

“Do we just have to wait for herd immunity? If so, is there a timescale for that? I’m worried about catching the virus and the effect on my mental health from having to shield for so long.”

James Taylor, Scope’s executive director of strategy, impact and social change, said many disabled people have shielded for almost a year but have been “continuously ignored and forgotten” by the Government.

He said: “It’s shameful that a year into this, so many are still having to struggle to get vital support with basics such as food and social care.

“A year of anxiety has pushed many to the brink of burning out completely, as they wait to be called up to get the vaccine. But many disabled people still have no idea when, how or if they’ll be getting the vaccine.

“Despite knowing they are more at risk, many are facing up to another year of unbearable anxiety and isolation, because the increased risk they face has been ignored in the vaccine priority. This cannot continue.”

Scope is calling for all disabled people to be included in at least group six of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) priority list.

It wants the Government to clarify guidance for disabled people who cannot have the vaccine and to ensure vaccine centres are accessible.

It also wants supermarkets to waive delivery costs and reduce minimum spends for disabled people ordering online.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said the Government understood it was a “hugely challenging time” for disabled people, especially those shielding, adding:  “The Government continues to provide extensive advice and support to people identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, with shielding advice in place during the current lockdown.

“This includes access to food and medicines deliveries, as well as supporting people unable to work from home through statutory sick pay or Employment and Support Allowance.”

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