Australian governments are under increasing pressure to ensure people with disabilities are prioritised to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
On the first full day of a Canberra lockdown recently, an alliance of more than 60 disability organisations released an open letter criticising the Federal Government for failing to vaccinate and protect the most clinically vulnerable people with disability in Australia.
The letter from People with Disability Australia (PWDA) was addressed to National Cabinet and contained an 11-point plan outlining the kind of action that governments across Australia need to take to protect people with disability.
The plan included recommendations in relation to consultation, planning, implementation and reporting. Key recommendations included prioritising in-home vaccinations, maximising vaccine choice and increased transparency around progress reporting.
PWDA Chief Executive Officer Sebastian Zagarella was critical of the governments’ failings.
“The Australian Government has failed to fully vaccinate people with disability under phase 1a and 1b of the vaccine rollout despite getting started in February 2021,” Mr Zagarella said.
“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.
“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.
“We’ve developed a clear 11-point plan to which we want governments across the country, but the federal government in particular, to urgently commit themselves so that people with disability get the protection they need to survive this crisis.”
Mr Zagarella was joined by the chief executives of other disability organisations in lobbying Australia’s governments for change.
Australian Federation of Disability Organisations CEO Ross Joyce said the sector was united in its frustration.
“We demand immediate action on the vaccine rollout for the most vulnerable in our community as was promised by the Morrison Government,” Mr Joyce said.
First Peoples Disability Network Australia CEO Damian Griffis said his community had been leading the fight to stay safe from COVID-19, “now we need action from governments too”.
“First Peoples with disability urgently need better access to the vaccine, as well as immediate measures to ensure people have what they need, such as food and essential disability supports,” he said
Children And Young People With Disability Australia CEO Mary Sayers said the sector needed less lip service and more action from governments/
“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,” Ms Sayers said.
Inclusion Australia CEO Catherine McAlpine insisted all people with intellectual disabilities in group homes should be vaccinated immediately:
“They should have been vaccinated at the start of the rollout, as they are a group at very high risk of adverse outcomes if they get COVID-19. We need all governments to do their bit urgently,” she said.
The open letter can be viewed and downloaded on the PWDA website.