People with learning difficulties “extremely vulnerable” to the effects of COVID-19

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A study published by people with learning disabilities with COVID-19 is five times more likely to be hospitalized and eight times more likely to die compared to the general population of England. The BMJ today.

The risks were particularly high for those with severe, profound learning disabilities, Down syndrome and .

Researchers say this group ensures rapid access to COVID-19 testing and health care and that prioritization of COVID-19 vaccination and other targeted preventive measures should be considered.

Emerging evidence has shown that people with learning disabilities have a higher risk of interacting with COVID-19 compared to the general population. But the results of existing studies on other results of COVID-19 are often complicated by factors such as deprivation and underlying conditions (comorbidities).

There is also a lack of clarity on the increased risk of death from COVID-19 among people with mild learning disabilities.

To delve deeper into this, a team of researchers from the UK set out to describe the risk of hospital admissions and deaths related to COVID-19 among children and adults with learning disabilities in England compared to .

Its results are based on electronic health records of more than 17 million people registered at a general consultation in England related to hospital admission and mortality data.

The data of 14,312,023 adults and 2,627,018 children were analyzed in the two waves of the COVID-19 pandemic: wave 1 (registered with a general practice from March 1, 2020 and followed until March 31, 2020). August 2020); and wave 2 (recorded on September 1, 2020 and followed until February 8, 2021).

Among the 90,307 adults on the learning disability registry, 538 (0.6%) had hospital admission related to COVID-19; there were 222 (0.25%) COVID-19-related deaths and 602 (0.7%) non-COVID deaths.

Among adults who were not on the registry, 29,781 (0.2%) had hospital admissions related to COVID-19; there were 13,737 (0.1%) COVID-19-related deaths and 69,837 (0.5%) non-COVID deaths.

After considering potentially influential factors, such as age, sex, ethnicity, and geographic location, adults on the learning disability registry had a 5-fold higher risk of COVID-related hospital admission. -19 and a risk of COVID 8 times higher than 19 related deaths than adults not listed.

Rates were higher among those with severe to profound learning disabilities than those with mild learning disabilities and among those in residential care.

Similar patterns were observed for children, but the authors emphasize that the absolute risks of hospital admission and COVID-19 death in children were small.

These are observational findings and the authors point out some limitations, such as focusing only on the severe outcomes of COVID-19 and not being able to identify all people with learning disabilities only from medical records. However, the results were similar after new analyzes and are consistent with the existing literature, suggesting that they are robust.

The findings also highlight gaps in learning disability records, limiting the scope of the vaccination program, leading to a call for greater efforts to update and maintain accurate records so that all eligible people can benefit.

In addition to vaccination, efforts should continue to protect people with learning disabilities from the adverse outcomes of COVID-19 and more research is needed on the increased risk of COVID-19 among people with Down syndrome and paralysis. cerebral.

This study makes an important contribution to the evidence of how the pandemic has affected this vulnerable group, according to researchers at a linked publisher.

Ken Courtenay, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and Vivien Cooper, of the Challenging Behavior Foundation, point out that there is “a hidden calamity” among people with learning disabilities and state that “reasonable adjustments must be made to ensure that information on the pandemic and the risk of infection is accessible and that practical support is provided to protect people and manage risks. “

In addition, they say that there have been worrying attitudes and prejudices about the value of the lives of people with learning disabilities during the pandemic, while the vaccination program against COVID-19 has also disadvantaged people with learning disabilities. , giving priority to people according to age rather than the severity of the comorbidity. disorders.

“Before the next pandemic, investment in research is essential to help us understand the risks faced by people with learning disabilities and how best to protect them from the high risks of learning. admission and death by COVID-19, “they write.” People with learning they have the same rights as everyone else, including the right to good health and to be safe from harm. ”


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More information:
Risks of hospital admission and death by covid-19 for people with learning disabilities: population-based cohort study using the OpenSAFELY platformBMJ (2021). DOI: 10.1136 / bmj.n1592

Citation: People with Learning Disabilities “Extremely Vulnerable” to COVID-19 (2021, July 14) Retrieved July 14, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-07-people-disabilities -extremely-vulnerable-effects .html

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