Victoria says it ‘steps in’ after Commonwealth’s failure to increase vaccination rates in disability

The Victorian government says it has been forced to step in and fund targeted hubs after not receiving responses from the Commonwealth on low vaccination rates among people with disabilities.

The Minister for Disability, Aging and Care, Luke Donnellan, announced on Thursday $ 5 million to increase the vaccination rate among people with a disability.

“We are launching 10 dedicated disability pop-ups in areas of concern and expanding our successful disability connectivity service with 16 additional officers,” Donnellan said.

“This builds on a wide range of existing help available to help people with disabilities and their loved ones and carers to come forward and protect themselves, their families and their communities.”

From October 8, all of Victoria’s state-run vaccination centers will also support people with disabilities to be vaccinated at any time without a reservation.

Sir. Donnellan said they were dissatisfied with the vaccination rate among people with disabilities and that more needed to be done.

“As of September 30, more than 71 percent of Victorian NDIS participants aged 16 and over had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine against 67 percent of the national average,” he said.

“So we’re doing a little better, but it’s simply not good enough.”

Sir. Donnellan said of the NDIS participants in Victoria who lived in disability-friendly housing that more than 80 percent had received a first dose, at least.

But he said the vaccination rate for Victorians living with a disability was still lower than the general population, 84.4 percent.

According to the Disabled Royal Commission, Australian states and territories should not ease COVID restrictions until all people with disabilities have been given the opportunity to be fully vaccinated.

In its draft report, published in late September, the inquiry described the rollout of the vaccine as “seriously deficient” and recommended the federal government “ensure that people with disabilities and support staff are fully vaccinated before restrictions are eased”. “.

Donnellan said he had written to the Commonwealth “three or four times” since December about vaccinations in the disability sector, but he had no success.

“It’s a Commonwealth responsibility for NDIS participants and for those … working in housing services,” he said.

“It’s very much about us stepping in. We’re not happy with the vaccine prices at the moment.

Sir. Donnellan said Victoria had to keep pushing “non-stop” to bring the vaccination rate up for those living with disabilities.

“It’s just not acceptable where it is at the moment,” he said.

“We can not open up when we have people with disabilities, vulnerabilities, if they do not have a high vaccination rate.”

The 10 pop-up centers will be launched in October in local government areas of concern, including hotspots and pockets with low vaccination rates.

Donnellan said the company would build on other initiatives, including a dedicated new low-sensory site at La Trobe University.

He said Victoria would establish hearing, autism and other disability partners as vaccine ambassadors.

‘Relieved’ by being vaccinated

A woman with densely cropped hair stands with a rainbow-colored mask on her face in a garden.
Disability advocate Margherita Coppolino says feeling safe about being vaccinated.(

ABC News: Annie Kearney

)

Margherita Coppolino, who lives with a disability and is also an advocate for the sector, said that when COVID-19 hit last year, one of her biggest fears was that her friends would find her dead from the virus in her apartment.

“It was my worst nightmare,” she said.

So the 61-year-old, speaking at Victoria’s daily COVID-19 press conference, said she overcame her phobia of needles and was vaccinated.

“And to be sure – to be sure where I could visit my loved ones and my friends and still defend in the work I do.”

Ms Coppolino said she strongly recommends everyone “go out and get the jab”.

“When you do, the feeling of relief, the feeling of feeling safe, is a feeling that I don’t think I have ever felt in such a long time,” she said.

A man wearing sunglasses and mask is sitting in a wheelchair.
Martin Heng says people have a responsibility to be vaccinated.(

ABC News: Annie Kearney

)

‘Important for people with disabilities to be vaccinated’

Martin Heng, a former travel writer who also spoke at the press conference, said it was everyone’s social and moral obligation to be vaccinated.

“I was left with a veterinarian 10 years ago, 11 years ago, when I had an accident,” he said.

“I think it’s even more important for people with disabilities to be vaccinated because we’m much more likely to be in contact with other people with disabilities.”

Sir. Heng is double-vaccinated and encourages others – especially people with a disability – to get the sting as well.

He said he relied on professional support staff for his day-to-day care and they were in touch with other clients in a high-risk category.

A spokesman for Federal Health Secretary Greg Hunt said the disability community had been a priority during the rollout and any statement to the contrary was false.

“The government has implemented a number of measures, including visiting more than 4,000 sites as part of our in-reach program and establishing community-based vaccination hubs specifically for people with disabilities and workers in the sector,” the spokesman said.

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