Media Release: New survey points to need to speed up vaccine rollout

PWDA chief executive officer Sebastian Zagarella has acknowledged that while people with disability were left out of the Australian Government’s initial response to the COVID pandemic a new survey from the organisation points to a way forward.

Mr Zagarella said it was now time for the Australian Government to prioritise the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine to people with disability, so we are no longer left behind in the national response to the pandemic.

Advisory Committee for the COVID-19 Response for People with Disability member PWDA appreciates the Federal Government’s openness to engagement with our sector and its acknowledgement of the central role that disability advocacy plays in responding to the threat of COVID-19.

We are therefore keen to continue work closely with the federal advisory committee and are recommending an 11-point plan (see below) to the Australian Government today at a roundtable being held today.

Mr Zagarella said the Australian Government, like all states and territories, must speed up its vaccine rollout for people with disability, our support workers, other supporters and informal carers.

“Speeding up vaccine rollout has to be a priority for the federal government and the states and territories as they are leaving behind people with disability as they slowly roll out COVID-19 vaccines,” Mr Zagarella said.

“We need all levels of government to work together so disabled people get prioritised and can access COVID jabs. People in our community include Australian residents who are really at risk of getting ill from the virus.”

One in six people in Australia have a disability, or about 4.4. million people, with newly unveiled Senate Estimates data last week revealing that:

  • only 7355 people with disability in a National Disability Insurance Agency funded residential care had been vaccinated (4265 had received their first vaccination and 3090 had their second shot) and
  • of all the people on the National Disability Insurance Scheme – about 10 per cent of people with disability – just 37,324 people are vaccinated despite 254,000 people being eligible for a jab.

Exclusive survey revealed today

A survey of PWDA members we have just completed has tellingly revealed that almost 42% of disabled people surveyed say it is urgent they get the jab.

Another 6.9% of people told us they unfortunately couldn’t get vaccinated for medical reasons.

A high 44.5% said they were willing to wait to be vaccinated or were not sure if they wanted to get vaccinated.

People are telling us they are holding off being vaccinated as they are concerned about the risks of receiving Astra Zeneca with their disability and would prefer to get the Pfizer jab.

PWDA suggests a way forward to government

PWDA will continue to work collaboratively with governments to ensure the ongoing response to COVID-19 includes people with disability and is accessible to us, our support workers other supporters and informal carers.

We want the Australian Government to take decisive steps to improve its vaccine response to the pandemic for people with disability. This includes:

  1. a five-day blitz in every state and territory, like it has had in Victoria
  2. all people with disability, their support workers and other supporters or informal carers of people with disability are prioritised for vaccination, and every attempt is made to identify and contact these people
  3. all people with disability regardless of age should have access to the vaccine of their choice, including access to Pfizer if they want it
  4. disability support workers and other supporters of people with disability should have a choice of vaccine, including the option to receive Pfizer
  5. people with disability have the choice to be able to obtain the vaccine in the way that best suits their needs and this includes being able to access vaccines in their home so that they are able to access vaccination regardless of where they live
  6. all people with disability, and their doctors, have access to expert and consistent advice on suitable vaccines and people’s eligibility – this should include access to a national support line resourced by medical experts
  7. it works with advocacy and representative organisations to launch an education campaign to ensure all people with disability, their support workers and other supporters, formal and informal, are aware they have priority for vaccination are aware of their vaccination options and are given priority at vaccine centres
  8. vaccine administrators make sure people with disability who are receiving a COVID-19 vaccine are doing so with informed consent of that person
  9. GPs and primary care workers are resourced and given the support they need to provide vaccinations through in-reach to a person’s home if that is the choice of the person with disability
  10. information and vaccine centres are safe, available and accessible to people with disability
  11. people are still able to access the supports and services they need while their support workers or supporters are being vaccinated

PWDA would like to remind the Australian Government that we should be adopting international best practice on rollout of vaccinations (see below)

International standards for COVID-19 vaccine rollouts

Best practice standards in COVID-19 vaccine rollouts from the International Disability Alliance (IDA):

  1. ensure prioritisation, inclusion, and accessibility of people with disability in the rollout and distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations;
  2. people with disability and disability support networks have priority access to vaccinations; including personal assistants, family caregivers, and persons working in disability services;
  3. sites where vaccinations are delivered, are safe, inclusive and accessible to people with disability and that we have the supports we need to access those sites, including free or low-cost accessible transportation where needed;
  4. specific outreach is conducted to ensure that people with disability know of the availability of vaccinations, and all information campaigns are inclusive and accessible, including gender and age-appropriate information;
  5. all information systems related to vaccinations must collect data that is disaggregated by age, gender and disability, and web-based services should also be fully accessible while ensuring respect for privacy and confidentiality of health-related information;
  6. receiving a COVID-19 vaccination must be based on informed consent of the person with disability. Autonomy and legal capacity of all people with disability must not be undermined with justifications such as ‘public good’ or ‘in the best interest of the person’;
  7. government must ensure that people with disability and their representative organisations meaningfully participate in policy-making and planning on distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations and related processes;
  8. organisations of people with disability must be properly resourced to become partners in the roll-out of information campaigns, for instance by reaching out to the most marginalized people and ensure their messages are clear, inclusive and accessible.