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COVID-19 vaccine consent: picture book aims to support people with learning disabilities

RCN Foundation funds project by nurse researchers and charity Beyond Words

RCN Foundation funds project by nurse researchers and charity Beyond Words

Nurse researchers are developing a picture book to help people with learning disabilities and/or autism give their consent to having the COVID-19 vaccine.

A study by Public Health England found people with learning disabilities were up to six times more likely to die from COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic in spring 2020. The hope is the visual resource will increase understanding and boost vaccination uptake among this vulnerable group.

RCN Foundation funds project by nurse researchers and charity Beyond Words

A service user with a learning disability receiving the Oxford/Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine at Robertson House in Stevenage last month
A learning disaility service user receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at Robertson House in Stevenage last month Picture: Alamy

Nurse researchers are developing a picture book to help people with learning disabilities and/or autism give their consent to having the COVID-19 vaccine.

A study by Public Health England found people with learning disabilities were up to six times more likely to die from COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic in spring 2020. The hope is the visual resource will increase understanding and boost vaccination uptake among this vulnerable group.

RCN Foundation gives £30,000 to fund Beyond Charity project

The project, which received £30,000 in funding from the RCN Foundation, is being led by professor of nursing at the University of Hertfordshire Natalie Pattison and the dean of the university’s school of health and social work, Jackie Kelly, a learning disabilities nurse.

Professor Pattison said people with learning disabilities can find having injections and other health checks a scary process and may be reluctant to get vaccinated.

‘People with intellectual disabilities have varying degrees of understanding and current resources out there do not necessarily meet their needs,’ she said.

The RCN Foundation contributed £30,000 to help fund the Beyond Words picture book for people with learning disabilities
The RCN Foundation helped fund the picture book project

‘Not all people with learning disabilities are able to process text – particularly those with more profound and severe intellectual disabilities. Having picture resources is important.’

The project will be working with people with learning disabilities, carers, fellow nurses and the charity Beyond Words, which specialises in creating books for people who find pictures easier to understand than words.

Downloadable COVID-19 e-book resource available from August

The plan is to create a colourful, downloadable e-book and hopefully a hard copy book that nurses, GPs and others can use to prompt discussions about the COVID-19 vaccination.

The resource will be available from August and distributed to people with learning disabilities, carers, nurses and other health and social care professionals.

The researchers will evaluate its effect through a national questionnaire and by mapping uptake of the vaccine among people with learning disabilities, with results published later this year.

Director of the RCN Foundation Deepa Korea hopes the project will help address health inequalities.

‘Given the disproportionate impact of the virus on people with intellectual disabilities, this project will play an important role in addressing existing health inequalities,’ she said.

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