Disability Royal Commission Slams Governments Over “Grossly Unfair” Plans To Lift Restrictions

People with disability haven't been given enough time or access to vaccines after being taken off the rollout priority list, advocates say.

Gloved hand holding pfizer

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A damning draft report has condemned the Morrison government’s handling of the vaccine rollout for people with disability, with the royal commission arguing that lockdowns should not lift until more people with disability and support workers are double jabbed.

The first findings from the disability royal commission were released on Monday and critiqued the “lack of clarity in communicating with the disability sector about the rollout” that led to “uncertainty and confusion” over the last six months.

So far, only a third of National Disability Insurance Scheme participants and half of NDIS support workers have received two doses, according to the advocacy group People With Disability Australia. Disability care residents and workers were initially identified as a priority ‘1A’ group for vaccinations, but in April, the federal government announced the focus would instead be moved to the aged care sector instead.

Along with access issues, the government’s confusing information was found to lead to vaccine hesitancy and distrust.

People with disabilities are at greater risk of sickness or death from COVID-19. “Many people with disability are extremely concerned about the risks to their health and the health of their loved ones as Australia starts to reopen from COVID lockdowns,” said PWDA CEO Sebastian Zagarella in a statement.

In response to the report, the lobbying group are calling for in-home vaccinations and priority booking for people with disability; the draft report from the royal commission outlined 17 findings and seven recommendations.

Phase B of the national COVID response plan seeks to end lockdowns and reopen Australia’s borders at 70 percent double vaccination mark, while states like NSW and Victoria are moving to ease restrictions at the same target next month.

The commission described it as “grossly unfair” and “unconscionable” to lift lockdown restrictions across the country at risk of the safety of people with disabilities, who would be “denied the freedoms available to people who have been fully vaccinated”.

“It is one thing for people who choose not to be vaccinated to be denied these freedoms; it is quite another for people who have been denied the opportunity to be fully vaccinated also to be denied those freedoms,” said Zagarella. “Without giving people with disability and the workers who support them sufficient time and opportunity to access vaccinations, we risk leaving people with disability behind, making them second-class citizens, endangering their lives and putting them in lockdown limbo.”