With COVID-related travel restrictions to regional NSW set to ease next week, disability advocates are calling for restrictions to remain in place for regions with low vaccination rates in order to protect the lives of people with disability who are at increased risk from the virus.
Peak disability advocacy organisation People With Disability Australia is also calling for other measures to protect people with disability including expanding the availability of potentially life-saving third jabs as well as risk mitigation advice for people with disability living in areas where the virus is being allowed to run free.
PWDA President Samantha Connor: “Easing travel restrictions to regions with low vaccination rates – whether in NSW or other areas around Australia – represents a huge health risk for people with disability living in those regions.
“People with disability are at greater risk of sickness and death if they get infected with COVID, so if we let it rip in places like northern NSW where vaccination rates are way below even the 70% threshold, many people with disability living in those places will be sitting ducks as the virus starts circulating in those communities.
“We also have to think about remote First Nations communities where vaccination rates also remain low. Many people in these communities experience a range of health issues which potentially put them at much higher risk.
“We’ve been told for months that the only way for communities to reopen is for at least 70% of the population to be double vaxxed. Near enough is simply not good enough.
“People with disability have already been deprioritised in the COVID response, and now it seems that if you’re in a person with disability living in a low-vax region in NSW, you’re going to be left even further behind.”
PWDA is also calling for people with disability who have conditions which affect their immune systems to be given immediate access to a third dose of COVID vaccine to increase their protection from the virus. Currently the Federal Government is limiting booster shots to an estimated 500,000 Australians who are severely immunocompromised.
“While we welcome this new measure from the Federal Government, it’s not inclusive of the vast majority of people with disability who require a third jab because research shows that even after two doses of the vaccine many remain clinically vulnerable to the virus.
“People with disability need to be given the best shot for a safe and healthy future and in this case it’s a third shot of the vaccine. The protocols are already in place to allow this to happen so let’s make it happen now.”
Ms Connor says helping people with disability and the disability sector better understand protective measures that can be taken in locations where COVID restrictions are being eased is another key risk management strategy that PWDA is calling for.
“COVID is running free now in NSW and will soon be widely circulating around Australia. There are specific actions that people with disability and their support workers can take to minimise the risks to their wellbeing and an information campaign should be rapidly developed and rolled out to ensure our community is effectively informed about these strategies.
“Things like how to get access to third jabs, negotiating safe in-home support, what our rights are in relation to accessing services and venues, how to access relevant data so we can undertake our own risk assessments, and alternative ways for demonstrating vaccination status for those people who have issues using digital technologies. These are all important matters for helping people with disability navigate their way in our new world.
“However, there’s still lots more that needs to be done to improve vaccination rates of people with disability and the workers who support them and we don’t want governments to lose sight of what needs to happen right now to protect the lives of disabled people. “But there also needs to be a plan for the next phase of our COVID response and we want governments to be thinking about that now as well so people with disability don’t get left behind once again.”
People with Disability Australia
Media and Communications | 0491 034 479
PWDA COVID-19 vaccines media releases:
- 11 October 2021, With COVID Set To Run Free In NSW, Many People With Disability Face A Future Of Fear
- 27 September 2021, Disability Royal Commission Report Backs Push To Speed Up COVID Vax Rollout For People With Disability
- 13 September 2021, Advocates Fear People With Disability Set For COVID Lockdown Limbo As Race To Reopen Leaves Them Behind
- 8 September 2021, Disability Advocates Condemn Use Of ‘Underlying Health Conditions’ As COVID Death Explainer
- 25 August 2021, Disability Advocates Say New COVID-19 Vaccine Data Show People With Disability Are Being Left Behind
- 13 August 2021, Community Coalition Demands Immediate Action To Vaccinate People With Disability Against COVID-19
- 13 August 2021, Open Letter: Immediate Actions Required To Vaccinate And Protect All Australians With Disability Against Coronavirus