FIRST HAND: One Mencap service user shares their experience in the lead up to their second vaccine dose

As more people throughout the UK are invited to get the vaccine against the coronavirus, Mencap service user and campaigner Brendan writes about getting his first dose and urges people with a learning disability to get vaccinated.

Brendan Chivasa, who has a learning disability, lives in a supported living service, is an active member of the Harrow Mencap self-advocate group and a Treat me Well Campaigner. Throughout his time with Mencap, Brendan has campaigned on various issues around improving health and social care for people with a learning disability.

When COVID started he felt scared and depressed and, as the crisis continued, he felt worried and disturbed by the high death rate of people with a learning disability – especially young people with a learning disability. Now, Brendan writes for Enable about his experience of getting his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Way forward

I got my vaccine at the end of February, just after they announced all people with a learning disability will be able to get the vaccine, if they are on their GP’s Learning Disability Register. My GP contacted my mother to make an appointment and I knew straight away I wanted to take it. I felt good going to get the vaccine and I wanted to take it because I know it’s a way forward.

I went to a vaccination centre to get my first vaccine. My father came with me as my support. The nurses there were very polite, they spoke directly to me and not just to my father which was nice. They made sure I had enough time for my appointment and what to expect. There wasn’t any easy read information which would have been nice but Mencap do have accessible information on their website. 

Relaxed

At my appointment, it helped that there was a woman who knew me there and that helped me feel relaxed. I’m happy I had the first dose of the vaccine because I feel more protection from COVID-19. I feel safer. [Soon] I will have had my second dose. I’m excited to be fully vaccinated. 

After I had my vaccine, I waited five minutes for the nurses to make sure everything was ok with me and I didn’t have a bad reaction to it, which I thankfully didn’t. 

I was worried if I would feel ill afterwards. I had the vaccine early in the morning and then, later on in the evening, I had a bit of a headache and felt a bit sore on my arm, but other than I was completely fine. That was the only time I didn’t feel my best and the next day I didn’t feel anything at all.

I really do want people with a learning disability to get the vaccine. I would say to other people with a learning disability that getting the vaccine is the way forward.

COVID has been really bad for people with a learning disability so please think about having the vaccine if you haven’t already. 

Hope

I was scared and depressed when COVID started because I couldn’t do what I usually do, and I couldn’t see all my friends. I couldn’t see my family and I was used to see them every weekend. I cried a few times at the start but now I’m hoping things will move forward. Especially when I have my second vaccine and the restrictions relax. 

We still need to social distance and wear masks until it is safe to stop, but this is a step closer to everything being back to normal. 

When everything is back to normal, I am looking forward to being able to go on holiday and see my family. I haven’t seen my uncles, cousins and other family members since 2019. I used to visit Harrow Mencap every week for meetings but everything is now on Zoom so I will look forward to going into the office and seeing everyone in person. 

If you aren’t already, please make sure you are on your GP’s Learning Disability Register if you haven’t had your vaccine yet. Please get it. It’s really important for people with a learning disability and it will protect you.

Brendan is excited to get his second vaccine dose soon.

For advice and information about learning disability and  Mencap  services in your area, contact  Mencap’s Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 808 1111 (10am-3pm, Monday-Friday) or email  helpline@mencap.org.uk

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