Disability advocates demand action amid slow vaccine rollout
17 August 2021 at 5:04 pm
“We need less lip service and more action from the government to roll out the vaccine to those who need it most”
Frustrated disability groups say the Australian government has failed to protect the nation’s most clinically vulnerable people during the pandemic. Now, they have put forward an 11-point plan to urgently improve the vaccine rollout for the disability community.
A coalition of more than 60 disability organisations has written an open letter to National Cabinet, warning that immediate action is needed especially with the highly contagious Delta strain causing havoc across the country.
While a Sydney disability group home was recently at the centre of a growing COVID-19 cluster, it was revealed in July that fewer than one in five residents in disability care had been fully vaccinated.
The open letter said while people with disability were included in Phase 1A and 1B of the vaccine rollout that began in February, these phases have not been completed, leaving the disability community at significant risk.
The 11-point plan being proposed in the letter is based on the International Disability Alliance’s best practice standards for COVID-19 vaccination rollouts.
It includes releasing a “clear public plan and transparent timeframes” on how phases 1A and 1B will be completed, creating a dedicated and fully accessible vaccination booking system for people with disability, and regularly publishing disaggregated public data on the vaccination numbers for this cohort.
People With Disability Australia (PWDA) CEO Sebastian Zagarella said the time for action was now.
He said advocates wanted governments across the country, but the federal government in particular, to urgently commit to the plan.
“Now that unvaccinated people are dying in this country of the Delta variant, we need Australia’s national, state and territory governments to get serious and commit to completing the rollout of vaccines to people with disability,” Zagarella said.
“People with disability include some of the most clinically vulnerable people and Australia’s governments must prioritise the rollout of vaccines to people with disability as a matter of urgency.”
The plan also calls on state and territory government coordination to ensure all young people with disability (aged 12 and over) are vaccinated.
With the Delta strain increasingly infecting kids, Children And Young People With Disability Australia CEO Mary Sayers said it was vital this group was protected.
“People with disability, including children and young people, need priority for vaccinations because of the increased risk of adverse outcomes if they catch COVID, yet despite the government acknowledging this, it is not translating to activity on the ground,” Sayers said.
“We need less lip service and more action from the government to roll out the vaccine to those who need it most.”
You can see the full open letter here.