Years and Years actress Ruth Madeley, journalist Dr Frances Ryan and Baroness Jane Campbell are amongst the signatories of the letter to the Government, which calls for a guarantee that people with underlying health conditions not considered ‘severe’ will receive a vaccination ahead of the general public.
The document, published by the Women’s Equality Party (WEP), comes just days after the Office for National Statistics revealed that disabled people made up 60% of all deaths from coronavirus from January to November last year.
Amanda Carter-Philpott, co-chair of the WEP Disability Caucus, said: “I was born in 1962 with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, and the expectations of me growing up were nil based on the fact I had a disability. I have a compromised immune system but I am not on a list, any list, anywhere.
“Since the start of the pandemic, disabled people have faced isolation and exclusion as social support services and networks – including personal assistance like caregivers – have been disrupted.”
On Tuesday, the Government announced that a further 1.7 million vulnerable people would be added to the shielding list, in an announcement which has been met with confusion by disabled people.
Carter-Philpott continued: “Collective anxiety has been exacerbated by inconsistent and confusing messages – or sometimes no messages at all – about priority lists and vaccinations. I feel ignored, forgotten and left behind.
“For us, every day feels like a war, a battle to be heard and to thrive, not just survive. We will continue to fight for the right to be acknowledged by the systems that claim to protect us.”
The open letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment lists five demands, including setting up a dedicated number or website for those concerned about their condition or the vaccine, including disabled people in decision-making, and providing financial and employment support for those shielding.
It reads: “Disabled and chronically ill people are being asked to put absolute trust in a system which left many of us locked inside without support in the early stages of the virus, which issued illegal blanket DNRs to learning disabled people with no clinical justification and which at every stage has forgotten and omitted many of us whose lives are at greatest risk of the virus.
“The extraordinary speed of the UK’s vaccination programme has been fantastic – but we must not allow the system to fail those who need it the most.”
More than 50 people have signed the letter at the time of writing, with other signatories including broadcaster and campaigner Samantha Renke, social media content creator Jessica Kellgren-Fozard, and Paralympian Sophie Christiansen CBE.
In a statement to Liam O’Dell, BAFTA-nominated actress Ruth Madeley added that the campaign is “essential”.
“Too many disabled people have been overlooked for the vaccine – myself included – and many of us are incredibly concerned about the impact that this will have going forward.
“Disabled people with underlying health conditions are at greater risk of Covid and complications that could occur. It is our right to be protected.”
The open letter is available to view online on the Women’s Equality Party website.