The Office for National Statistics has published data revealing disabled people are three times more likely to die from COVID-19

Worrying figures released today from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that people with a disability are three times more likely to die from coronavirus.

Credit: ONS

This figure is increased significantly for people with a learning disability and/or autism.


The report looks at deaths in England up to 20 November 2020, with figures revealing that disabled people are three times more likely to die from coronavirus.

The risk of death from COVID-19 was reported to be 3.1 times greater for severely disabled men, and 1.9 times greater for men with a less moderate disability. For women the figures were 3.5 times greater and 2.0 times greater, respectively. 

There are an estimated 1.5 million people in the UK living with a severe or moderate learning disability in the UK. Despite this, the UK Government has continued to let members of the disabled community down during the course of the ongoing pandemic.

Six out of 10 people who have died from COVID-19 are disabled

“COVID-19 has had an unequal impact on disabled people who have been among the hardest hit in terms of deaths from the virus,” says Mehrunisha Suleman, senior research fellow at the Health Foundation.

“The high number of COVID-19 deaths among disabled people ultimately reflects wider failures in how the UK supports those who are vulnerable.” 

Read the full ONS report for free here.

Further findings in the report highlighted the excess COVID-19 mortality risk for individuals with a learning disability (relative to those without) was slightly lower during the second wave of the pandemic than the first, but this difference was not statistically significant


Disability organisations and charities have responded to the findings, calling on everyone with learning disability and autism to be prioritised in category six in order to receive a vaccination. 

At present only people with a severe or profound learning disability are in category six, or due to their age or vulnerability status.

“Throughout this pandemic, disabled people and their needs haven’t been prioritised,” comments Richard Kramer, chief executive of national disability charity Sense.

“It is not enough that there will be investigation into the disproportionate impact of the virus upon disabled people’s lives, and how society has managed this. 

“The Government must act now, planning its way out of lockdown with disabled people and their family’s needs prioritised, to show that it’s learnt from the mistakes of the past year.”

Dan Scorer, head of policy at learning disability charity Mencap, concurs: “The government must step up and address this scandal and prioritise everyone with a learning disability for the vaccine.

“Currently people with a severe or profound learning disability are in group six on the vaccine priority list, and adults with Down’s syndrome are in group four. Yet people with a mild or moderate learning disability are not being prioritised, ​unless due to their age or clinical vulnerability. 

“We are urgently calling for everyone with a learning disability to be prioritised in at least group six on the vaccine priority list. It is ​unacceptable that within a group of people who already face serious barriers to ​accessing healthcare, ​many are ​being left out and their lives put in danger.” 

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