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This week in our Slow Newscast we tell the story of Elliott Goldsworthy, a teenager at greater risk of dying from Covid but who is still waiting to be vaccinated. Saba Salman reports:
We tell Elliott’s story because it reflects a bigger problem: as Covid becomes endemic, what happens to disabled people who cannot have life-saving injections like everyone else?
Elliott is among over 32,000 people who are autistic or have a learning disability and remain unvaccinated, according to estimates by Professor Chris Hatton at Manchester Metropolitan University.
People like Elliott are up to six times more likely to die from Covid, figures from Public Health England show.
The reasons they find injections difficult include needle phobia and anxiety about healthcare. Some areas offer accessible vaccine clinics with less queuing and longer appointments, but these adjustments are not always enough.
The charity Ambitious about Autism estimates that just 65 of the 235 children and young people across its services who are eligible for the jab are vaccinated.
Chief executive Jolanta Lasota, whose autistic son Ben, 16, is only half-vaccinated because he struggles with injections, says: “We need to pay attention to the numbers left behind. An awful lot of people with learning disabilities and autism never did have access to vaccination or any of the primary healthcare that they should do and now it’s becoming critical in a pandemic, we’re realising there’s a lot of work to do”.
Ambitious about Autism suggests the government create a working party on understanding what extra help people need to get vaccinated.
Another solution is for clinical commission groups, which are responsible for local health services, to publish ‘vaccine pathways’ for anyone who find injections difficult.
Lucy Goldsworthy, Elliott’s mother, says: “Elliott’s always going to need something. There’ll be a point that he hurts himself or requires some type of treatment. And if we have this issue with a vaccine, this is symptomatic of a much bigger problem.”
You can listen to A place for Elliott online and in our app, or on Thursday wherever you get your podcasts – just look for Tortoise Media and the Slow Newscast.
Photographs Getty Images, Alamy