Ensuring those with learning disabilities and autism have access to vaccines

Dr Molly Moffat is a GP working at Westrop Medical Practice in Swindon and Clinical Lead GP for Learning Disabilities and Autism at BSW Integrated Care Board. Over the past few months Molly and her team have been working to ensure people with learning disabilities and autism (LDA) do not miss out on flu and covid vaccinations.

People with a learning disability are more likely to become unwell and suffer complications if they contract flu or covid, but this risk can be significantly reduced through access to vaccinations.

We caught up with her to find out more about this project.

You recently organised some vaccination clinics for people with LDA – why was it important to do this and did the clinics attract a lot of people?

Vaccination is one of the best tools we have to protect people with a learning disability from becoming unwell with covid or flu. Sadly, statistics show that uptake is low and we were really keen to try and address this, particularly with a difficult flu season anticipated.

We managed to vaccinate adults that wouldn’t otherwise have been vaccinated and increase awareness of its importance. The project has allowed us to focus on understanding the barriers around attendance and to consider considerations needed for hosting a vaccination clinic for people with LDA, which we can use again in the future.       

How did you go about targeting the LDA community to attend the clinics?

We used social media to share an easy read poster advertising the walk-in clinics. We took advantage of third sector organisations who are involved with this community and asked them to share a poster and information about the importance of vaccination along with a video which walked people through the process, so they knew what to expect. 

Were the clinics challenging to organise? What kind of issues did you have to address in order to make them a success?

The staff at Steam vaccination centre were really enthusiastic to support this group of people. They showed great flexibility and willingness to want to get it right.

I wanted to ensure the setting was as learning disability friendly as possible. We worked together to consider all the steps involved in attending for a vaccination and what adjustments we needed to make. We discussed possible situations that could arise on the day such as a person becoming agitated and the correct approach staff should take to support individuals.

More widely – what other work is underway to improve care for people with LDA?

We remain committed to improving care and reducing health inequality for autistic people and people with a learning disability.

One area of focus has been improving the uptake of annual health checks for people with a learning disability. These are another very important tool for tackling health inequality for people with a learning disability.

The health checks are a way of a person’s GP addressing any unmet health needs and planning proactive care. We have been busy ensuring that primary care understand the importance of these health checks and now how to carry out these health checks to a very good standard.