Everyone on GP practice learning disability registers - around 300,000 people in England - will now be added to JCVI cohort 6 - the group GP-led vaccination sites are currently focusing on.
Cohort 6 covers patients aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions - including patients with 'a severe and profound learning disability' or severe mental illness.
Around half of patients on GP learning disability registers fall outside the original definition of cohort 6 - but these patients will now also be offered vaccination as part of this group.
A statement from Public Health England (PHE) confirmed: 'To ensure those most at risk of death or hospitalisation are prioritised for vaccination, JCVI supports the plan to invite anyone on the GP learning disability register - as well as adults with other related conditions, including cerebral palsy – for vaccination as part of priority group 6.'
The JCVI remains of the view that those at greatest risk are patients with severe and profound learning difficulties - but backed the expansion of cohort six after analysis 'confirmed a higher risk of mortality and morbidity in those on the GP register with learning disabilities'.
PHE said GP registers 'may not always capture the severity of someone’s disability' meaning that under the original cohort 6 definition 'some adults who are more severely affected by learning disabilities may not be invited for vaccination alongside people with other long-term health conditions'.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has written to the JCVI welcoming its support for the expansion.
JCVI priority groups
He noted the JCVI view that those with severe learning disability remained most at risk, adding: 'It is very helpful, however, to have your support for a practical operational approach, proposing to invite everyone on the GP learning disability register.
'I am grateful for the further considerations of the JCVI. In line with your letter, I have asked the NHS to ensure that everyone on the learning disability register is invited for vaccination as part of cohort 6.'
GPonline reported on 23 February that practices could be offered additional funding to support vaccination in hard-to-reach patient groups, potentially including some of those in cohort 6.