Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Man with severe learning disabilities should have the vaccine, judge rules

A case has recently been taken to court after a family objected to their son with severe learning disabilities, autism and epilepsy having the Covid-19 vaccine.

The hearing took place at the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions are analysed.

It was here that Manchester-based Judge, Jonathan Butler, heard the family’s concerns relating to the side effects of the vaccine and the impact this could have on their son.

The man’s father contended that the vaccine had not been tested sufficiently, that it did not stop people contracting the virus and that the long-term side effects on people with severe health issues were unknown.

He stated he had no objections to the vaccine in principle, but that this was not the right time for his son. This was mainly down to the lack of data as to the consequences of such a vaccine for those who fell into the same category as his son.

The NHS Tameside and Glossop Commissioning Group, which is responsible for the man’s treatment, asserted that the 31-year-old man was clinically vulnerable and in a priority group for the vaccination.

It is important to note that the man was not only classed as clinically vulnerable due to his learning difficulties, but also because he has epilepsy and is 22 stone. Being overweight and epileptic therefore makes him more vulnerable to the virus. The man was also residing in a care home at the time of the hearing, which is a high-risk environment for contagion.

For these reasons, all the professionals involved in the care of the man maintained it would be in his best interests to have the vaccine.

Vaccine will not be administered if any form of physical intervention is required

Judge Jonathan Butler agreed with the specialists. He ruled that the man should be given the jab despite his parent’s objections, saying there was “overwhelming objective evidence of the magnetic advantage of a vaccination” for a vulnerable person.

Judge Butler said the man’s father had outlined his concerns with “conviction and great clarity.” He added: “I have no doubt whatsoever that his objections are founded on a love for (his son) and a wish to ensure that he comes to no harm. While his objections were not intrinsically illogical, they were certainly not deliberately obstructive.

“They were made upon the basis as to what he regards as being in the best interests of (his son). That concern for his son does him credit.”

While the judge ordered the man should have the vaccine, he did not order any physical intervention.

The health authority has confirmed that the vaccine will therefore not be administered if any form of physical intervention is required. 

Dan Scorer, Head of Policy at the learning disability charity Mencap, said: “Through the COVID crisis we have seen people with a learning disability disproportionately affected at every turn. They are at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19 and, even before the pandemic, already faced serious barriers to accessing healthcare.

“The vaccine can protect people from becoming seriously unwell or dying from Covid. We are encouraging people with a learning disability to make sure they are on their GP’s learning disability register, so they can get access to the vaccine as part of priority group 6, along with unpaid carers. Mencap has a wealth of information available online and via its helpline for people who want further information.”

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