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New survey in Australia points to speed up vaccine rollout

Person in wheelchair with a man walk into Metro Convention Centre vaccination centre to receive their COVID-19 vaccine.
Photo: Dreamstime

People with Disability Australia (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 – 10 per cent of people with disability – just 37,324 people are vaccinated despite 254,000 people being eligible for a jab.

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.

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