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‘I’m too high-risk to attend my day service... but I’m not included in new vaccine cohort’ – Niall (22)

I am happy for my friends but I am very sad. All I want is the vaccine to feel safe’

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Niall Shevlin (22) from Castleblayney, Co Monaghan

Niall Shevlin (22) from Castleblayney, Co Monaghan

Niall Shevlin (22) from Castleblayney, Co Monaghan

A 22-year-old man with a congenital heart disease that has been deemed high-risk by his doctor said he is “sad and disappointed” that he isn’t included in the new cohort for vaccination.

Niall Shevlin, who also has a learning disability and autism, has been cocooning since the beginning of the pandemic and has been unable to attend his day centre due to his heart condition.

The Monaghan native has to take public transport to get to his centre, however, he is not allowed to attend without his doctor signing off that this is safe.

Unfortunately, his doctor would not sign off as he said he’s at too high risk of getting seriously ill if he catches the virus to be getting on public transport.

Despite this, Mr Shevlin has not been bumped up the vaccine list and won’t be able to attend the centre, see his friends or live somewhat of a normal life until he’s vaccinated.

It was announced last week that people aged between 16 and 69 that suffer from a medical condition that puts them at serious risk if they caught the virus have been moved to the fourth cohort to be vaccinated.

This means they are next in line after everyone over the age of 70 has been vaccinated.

The 22-year-old is so upset that he wrote a heartfelt plea to the Government, saying although he is happy for his friends who are on the new list he is disappointed because it’ll be another while before he can see them.

“The government made a new list of criteria for the vaccine I am very sad and disappointed that I am not on the list, I thought I would be on the list and be able to go back to my course,” he said.

"I have an intellectual disability and my best friends have Down syndrome and they are on the list but I am not, and I do not understand because we are the same.

"I am happy for them but I am very sad. All I want is the vaccine to feel safe, if I had the vaccine I could go back to the course.

"When will I be allowed to go back to Special Olympics? I want to play football and basketball with my friends and everybody else is getting vaccines.

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“You said the special ones are moved up on the list ….but they are not, where is the plan?”

Niall’s father, Noel Shevlin, said he can’t understand how his son isn’t included in the new list as since the beginning of the pandemic people with heart conditions have been warned to cocoon.

"It’s very frustrating when you think all along that the high-priority group that had to cocoon at the very beginning was anyone with a heart defeat or anything like that,” he told Independent.ie.

"And it’s not just an ordinary heart problem….his is huge. Niall has already had eight open-heart surgeries, so it’s complex to that extent but apparently, he’s not a priority for the vaccine.

"He has so many things, when he had a heart operation he took a stroke in the middle of it, so there's so much going on for him, so we just can’t get our heads around this vaccine situation that he doesn’t even get a mention basically.”

Mr Shevlin said his son should be included in cohort seven to get a vaccination, but after a year of cocooning, he misses his friends, his sport and his day centre so much.

"Zoom class and Niall just doesn’t work, he doesn’t interact that way at all, it’s a disaster,” he said.

"He is a part of Special Olympics Monaghan, which is a wider Ulster thing, and he is part of the basketball team. Niall is brilliant at basketball.

"There’s a lot of travelling for us to get him there and home, because it’s a long way away from us, but we don’t mind as it’s the one thing he has.

"It’s the one thing he has, but, until he gets this vaccine he can’t do any of that.”

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