Kimchi is amongst the first with learning difficulties to receive Coronavirus vaccine

Date published: 01 March 2021

A 19-year-old who was born with Down’s Syndrome and experiences significant hearing loss is looking forward to seeing her friends – after becoming one of the first adults with learning disabilities to be inoculated against COVID-19.

Kimchi Bui received her vaccination from South Chadderton GP Dr Anita Sharma – after research showed that people with disabilities including memory loss and dyslexia are SIX TIMES more likely to perish from the virus than other groups.

Now she is eagerly awaiting her second jab so that she can visit her brothers and break what has been a difficult isolation period.

“People with learning difficulties have shielded and are living with the knowledge that they could have to stay in hospital without the support of their family should they contract COVID,” said Dr Sharma.

"That is traumatic enough.

"However, the fact that they often have associated health conditions from heart problems to obesity means they should have been an absolute priority for the vaccine.”

Dr Sharma has been running a campaign called United for Vaccines from South Chadderton and has protected Paul Barton (52) who also has Down’s.

Paul’s brother Martin added: “When I heard that people like my brother were in so much danger, I was terrified.

"He used to have a great life going to disability and golf clubs and doesn’t really understand why he can’t anymore.”

Joanne Moran, whose brother Michael has been vaccinated, joked that “he had a better social life than me before lockdown.

"When he got the vaccine, it was like his birthday!”

After pressure from broadcaster Jo Whiley plus campaigns like Dr Sharma’s, the joint committee on vaccination (JCVI), recommended that adults with learning difficulties be pushed-up the priority list, nationally.

As a family practice, South Chadderton knows it patients well and decided to contact them directly – and invite them into surgery.

Practice Nurse Julia Wood, who is now inoculating around 25 patients with learning difficulties per week, said: “As soon as we greet patients in the waiting room, we start to talk with them, so that by the time they reach the treatment room, we have broken the ice and they are relaxed.

"Doing the jabs here also means they are in a familiar environment with people that they know.”

Dr Sharma concluded: “I am really proud of how my team and the NHS, particularly in Oldham, has disseminated the vaccine.

"We were the first borough to inoculate the homeless and our practice has made a bold bid to ensure people from BAME groups who have previously not been coming forward are now lining up for their jab.

"Of course, it is an enormous advantage to have patients like Kimchi spreading the word and all of us should follow her example and become ambassadors for the vaccine – and help save lives.”

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