Disability advocates are concerned that persons with disabilities are set to languish in lockdown when the states and territories open up again unless the Federal Government amps up COVID vaccination programs for clinically vulnerable people.
As locked-down states begin to share their roadmaps out of lockdown, people with disability are preparing to remain isolated at home because the vaccine rollout is still not meeting the needs of populations at higher risk from COVID infection.
People with Disability Australia (PWDA) President Samantha Connor: “The Federal Government’s failure to meet its vaccination commitments for people with disability is set to create a two-tier reopening with disabled people at the bottom, affecting their ability to return to work, see their loved ones, access safe support services and participate in society like everyone else.
“People with disability make up close to 20 per cent of the population and while many of us were supposed to be vaccinated in the first phase of the vaccine rollout, our vaccination rates are still abysmal.
“If we open up without giving people with disability and the people who support them sufficient vaccinations we risk making disabled people second-class citizens stuck at home or, worse still, endangering their lives through lack of support or increased exposure to COVID-19.
“What happens to our lives if we’re unable to access lifesaving medical services? What happens to our jobs if employers want people back at work in offices? What happens to our opportunities if we can’t meet with people, see family and friends and be out-and-about like everyone else?
“And how do people with disability get the support they need if not enough disability workers are vaccinated? Not only will they be stuck at home but they won’t be able to get the COVID-safe services they need or they’ll have to get services from unvaccinated workers.
“So not only will we be creating a lockdown limbo for people with disability, we’ll be putting the lives of people with disability at risk if we move to reopen without all disabled persons and support workers having had every chance to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“The government needs to level the playing field and work more effectively with the states and territories on vaccination blitzes for people with disability and disability support workers, so opening up doesn’t put people with disability in danger and distress.”
Late last month the government confirmed just over 50% of people with disability eligible under phase 1a of the rollout had received two vaccine doses. Moreover, disability advocates say this group represents only a fraction of people with disability who are clinically vulnerable. Also, it’s now evident that some people with disability, especially people with compromised immune systems, need three or more jabs to reach adequate antibody levels to fight off the virus.
“People with disability are getting anti-body tests and finding out that double-doses of the vaccine aren’t giving them enough protection. However, the system is knocking them back for extra jabs which means they won’t be protected and will have to remain in lockdown.”
PWDA has written to the Prime Minister asking for a plan that includes:
- Vaccination targets for people with disability and support workers
- A clear strategy and resources to reach the targets, including a dedicated and accessible booking service
- Reporting progress against vaccination targets weekly on a public facing website
- A commitment to reaching the vaccination targets for people with disability and support workers before ending lockdowns
“People with disability need a much more effective vaccination response from the Federal Government and we need it now.”