RACP calls for urgent action to prioritise COVID-19 vaccination of people living with disability

1 October 2021

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has serious concerns that people living with disability have not been prioritised for COVID-19 vaccinations, as states such as NSW prepare to ease restriction in a matter of days.

The RACP has repeatedly raised concerns about the slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines to people with disability and the need to urgently prioritise this group. Disability care residents and staff were in the highest priority group for vaccination yet only 67% of residents and 59% disability screened workers are vaccinated.

People with disability are at increased risk of adverse outcomes if they are infected by COVID-19. A study in the UK reported that 58% of COVID-19 deaths were among people who had a disability, whilst another UK study found people with intellectual disability were eight times more likely to die of COVID-19 than the general population.

RACP President Professor John Wilson says “We are seriously concerned that people living with disability will remain unprotected as states such as New South Wales and Victoria look to ease restrictions when 70% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.

“NSW is opening up in a matter of days – yet the Disability Royal Commission (DRC) report shows that many people living with a disability still have not had access to COVID-19 vaccination.

“A report released yesterday by the national organisation Children and Young People with Disability Australia shows that over 70% of respondents experienced difficulties in securing vaccinations”.

The Government must publish data on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for people with disability to enable a quick response at a local level where gaps in accessibility are identified. This must include:

  • Regular, up-to-date disaggregated data on the vaccination numbers for all people with disability, as at present only NDIS participant data is available publicly.
  • The rates of COVID-19 infection and death amongst all people with disability.

Dr Jacqueline Small, RACP President-elect and developmental paediatrician says “The DRC report that people living with disability were deprioritised in the vaccine rollout is deeply concerning. We have had months to get this right. Now we are days away from states easing restrictions with less than half of NDIS participants aged 16 years and over fully vaccinated – that is really troubling.

“A coordinated connected response with inclusion of people with disability, local health districts, primary health networks and non-government organisations is needed urgently.”

The RACP welcomes yesterday’s announcement that the National Disability Insurance Agency and The Pharmacy Guild Australia have joined forces making it easier for National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants to book and access COVID-19 vaccinations through local pharmacies.

This follows the recent announcement from Minister for the NDIS, Senator Linda Reynolds, that all Australians, including NDIS participants, now have more than 9,000 places where they can get vaccinated.

These include general practices, pharmacies, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, Commonwealth vaccination clinics and state and territory operated vaccination clinics.

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