Jo Whiley has said she’s living through a nightmare after being offered the coronavirus vaccine before her sister, who has learning difficulties and diabetes and whose care home has been locked down due to an outbreak.
The BBC Radio 2 DJ, who’s been fighting for her younger sister Frances, who has the rare Cri du Chat genetic syndrome, to be prioritised for the jab, has spoken of her distress after a COVID outbreak in Frances’s care home.
Jo Whiley said she would give up her jab in a heartbeat if she could so that her sister or any of the residents in her care home could have it instead.
According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, 60 per cent of people who died with COVID in England up to November last year had a disability, and for people who had a medically diagnosed learning disability, the risk of death was 3.7 times greater for both men and women than for people who did not.
People with diabetes, as well as those with a severe or profound learning disability, are in priority group six for the jab, but Frances comes under priority category four due to her diabetes and underlying health conditions.
Invitations for the first dose had started to be sent out on Monday to people in priority groups five and six, which includes the over 65s and people considered clinically vulnerable.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Jo Whiley, 55, said it had felt like a long wait for Frances to get the vaccine and when she got the call she’d been dreading that there had been an outbreak in the care home, her blood ran cold.
She said that it was frustrating and it was horrible and that she felt like she was living through a nightmare. That it was difficult and hard for her parents and hard for everyone in the care home, which continues.
She added that then, ironically, she got a message to say she was scheduled to have her vaccine before her sister who’s got learning difficulties and underlying health conditions, which didn’t make any sense at all.
Jo Whiley described the impact on her sister’s mental health as pretty extreme and said Frances had become quite distressed by being unable to see her parents because she usually returns to her parent’s home every three weeks.
It’s sickening that disabled people aren’t being given the vaccine at this stage. They all have underlying, multiple conditions which makes them very vulnerable to this virus, hence the incredibly high number of COVID deaths in this group.
The problem is the government believe that disabled people cost them far too much money and they’re seen as a burden to society, and this is all pretty disgraceful, but expected from the Conservatives, and it’s of no surprise that 60 per cent of deaths from COVID has been of people with disabilities, and this is a complete failure to protect the most vulnerable, and also extremely disturbing.
Anyone in a residential home should be a top priority regardless of whether they’re elderly or not because both groups are vulnerable, and both require care from people coming in each day, so both deserve protection, and this is not good enough because however you look at it, vulnerable people must not be forgotten.