Disability advocates say the Federal Government needs to heed the Disability Royal Commission’s latest call for improved vaccination measures to protect the lives of people with disability before states start to open up from COVID lockdowns.
Today the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability released the draft Commissioners’ Report of Public hearing 12: The experiences of people with disability, in the context of the Australian Government’s approach to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
The report sets out a range of findings and recommendations about the government’s vaccine rollout as it affects people with disability, particularly people in residential disability settings and people with intellectual disability. A key recommendation is no easing of restrictions until all people with disability and all active disability support workers have been fully vaccinated.
The report essentially backs a series of demands from the disability sector over the last six months that people with disability be prioritised for vaccines with in-home vaccinations and priority booking services, and that the government be much more transparent in relation to relevant vaccination data and strategy.
People With Disability Australia (PWDA)– the nation’s peak disability advocacy organisation – has been part of a coalition of disability organisations that has been lobbying for months for a better vaccine response for people with disability but with little engagement from the government.
PWDA CEO Sebastian Zagarella: “Many people with disability are extremely concerned about the risks to their health and the health of their loved ones as Australia starts to reopen from COVID lockdowns.
“That’s because many people with disability are at greater risk of sickness and death if they get infected with COVID, which is why people with disability were supposed to be prioritised for vaccinations and be double-dosed back in April.
“However, the latest figures from the Federal Government show that vaccination rates for people with disability are still way too low, with just over a third of NDIS participants, less than two-thirds of NDIS participants in shared residential accommodation and just over half of NDIS screened support workers having received two doses.
“Without giving people with disability and the workers who support them sufficient time and opportunity to access vaccinations, we risk leaving people with disability behind, making them second-class citizens, endangering their lives and putting them in lockdown limbo.
“We’re grateful the Commission has come out so strongly in support of what the sector has been saying for months now in relation to the vaccine rollout for people with disability.
“The government’s lack of consultative planning plus unclear messaging has created confusion among people with disability which ultimately has led to distrust in the rollout and vaccine hesitancy.
“The government should be working with the disability sector to understand reasons for hesitancy and look to address this with clear accessible messaging.
“We’re calling on the government to take immediate action in relation to the Commission’s recommendations as well as the disability sector’s 11-point plan for improving the vaccine rollout for people with disability.”
Today PWDA launched a new campaign – #SpeedUpVaxForPWD – to get people with disability to put a human face on the COVID response by sharing their stories about:
- Lack of access to COVID vaccines
- The impact that reopening is having on them and their loved ones
- The need for people with low immune systems to get extra jabs to protect them from COVID
Mr Zagarella: “Real life stories help us bring about real change by putting a human face on these issues, so we’re asking people with disability to share their stories online using #SpeedUpVaxForPWD or by contacting us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org”
For more information about the #SpeedUpVaxForPWD campaign please visit our campaign page.
People with Disability Australia
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