Calls to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for staff in the disability sector have been growing with one Melbourne disability service provider becoming the first in the state to introduce a policy of no jab, no job.
While staff and employees at Wallarrra, a purpose-built training, services and accommodation organisation in Melbourne for people with different abilities, were happy to roll up their sleeves for their COVID shots, the company was disappointed the government’s vaccine mandate had not extended to the disability sector.
That was why, CEO Phil Hayes-Brown told Channel 9’s The Today Show, the board moved to introduce their own mandate, long before the government, which made it the first business in the state to make the no jab, no job move.
Those living with disabilities were more at risk of becoming sick or dying if they contracted COVID-19, figures show.
And that was why, Mr Hayes-Brown said, the staff had been overwhelmingly in support of the move: 100% of the staff at one facility had been vaccinated while across the company’s centres, that figure was currently 80%.
Developing Australian Communities co-founder and disability sector expert Mr River Night said on the program he would prefer education over mandates from Government when it came to COVID-19 vaccinations. Although, he explained if the up-take isn't quick enough to protect vulnerable Australians then that's what we may have to do, Mr Night said.
“When it comes to the employer having to regulate or push its staff to get jabs, it causes problems in the sector,” Mr Night said.
“I’d rather an educated state, not a police state.” If our Government says it doesn't have the resources to deliver the jab to vulnerable Australians then how are they going to resource policing it. It looks like it is up to sector leaders like Wallarra and initiatives within the sector, by the sector to get the sector on track, Mr Night said.
Recent Developing Australian Communities research showed half of those surveyed experienced discrimination including being unable to access a COVID-19 vaccination.
Mr Night said figures coming out of the UK showed six out of 10 people who had died from COVID were people living with a disability.
He said only 30% of Australians on the National Disability Insurance Scheme had received both doses of a COVD vaccine.
However, Mr Hayes-Brown said his company “just had to do it”, not wait around for the government to do something to protect the disability sector - just like they did for the childcare and education sector and the aged.
Mr Night said he wanted to see people living with disabilities being educated about getting the jab and prioritised by Government.
“I want people to know why they need to get the COVID shot, because they need to know that vaccines are what protects them and the people we are working with or at least reduces the severity of the illness” he said.
Watch the full interview here.