People who are unable to leave home for health reasons urgently need a simple way to book COVID vaccinations because of concerns about vulnerable people falling through the cracks, experts say.
- Lawyers say COVID vaccinations should be easier for people who cannot leave home
- The federal government says an extra MBS payment encourages doctors to make home vaccination visits
- A lawyer fears that vulnerable people will be at serious risk as Australia opens up
Grace * has a disability, which means she is mostly “bedridden”, and despite being eligible for a vaccine early in the rollout, she has not been able to order a vaccination at home.
“In general, I would be in the 1B category,” she said. “You would think I had been vaccinated now.”
She has contacted the federal and Queensland COVID guides and was asked to contact her local doctor to arrange a home visit.
She has also tried local vaccine hubs, disability advocates and politicians, to no avail.
“We have contacted everyone [the GPs] in the area and no one will make home visits, “Grace said.
Lawyers have repeatedly called for better access to coronavirus vaccines for people with a disability.
Disability Advocacy Network Australia CEO Mary Mallett said that for people who could not leave home to get a shot, vaccines were “all the more important” because their circumstances often put them at greater risk.
“For people who cannot get there, there should be some mechanism that they call and book and have a time when a mobile team brings the vaccine.
In September, people with disabilities Australia and a further 60 organizations wrote an open letter demanding that people with disabilities be given priority for home vaccines.
Lack of vaccination more isolating
Grace said she did not have a specific program for people in these circumstances, made her feel “very sad, very isolated and very excluded from basic health care in Australia”.
“It is especially worrying when the health manager [of Queensland, Dr Jeannette Young] talking about opening up and that everyone gets COVID when I get messages from the government to get my vaccine, but there is no way to access it, ”she said.
“Like … others I receive home care, I still have exposure to other people, so the risk is still there.”
A spokesman for the Federal Ministry of Health said it was a priority to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to all Australians.
“The government recognizes that there may be some circumstances in which individuals are unable to leave their homes to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations,” the spokesman said.
Additional payments to doctors for home visits
In June, the federal government introduced payments through the Medicare Benefits Schedule for GPs and other GPs to vaccinate people in nursing homes and disability facilities.
“General practice is still free to make decisions about how they make bookings and administer their COVID-19 vaccinations, including whether they make home visits,” the spokesman said.
A Queensland Health spokesman said people who could not leave home to be vaccinated for health or disability reasons should call 134 COVID (13 42 68).
“Our call center will contact Commonwealth and vaccine service providers to investigate options appropriate to the person’s circumstances,” the spokesman said.
The national coronavirus helpline is 1800 020 080.
Mater Hospital infectious expert Dr. Paul Griffin said a solution was needed for these Queenslanders.
“I think we need to look for some reason why people may not have been vaccinated, and if we identify a barrier, we should find a solution to it,” he said.
Queensland Advocacy Institute CEO Matilda Alexander said low vaccination rates among people with a disability were very worrying.
She said opening up with an 80 percent vaccination rate without securing the most vulnerable, had a “real chance of being vaccinated” would lead to inequality, serious illness and death.
Alexander called for vaccination programs that “actively delivered” to people with disabilities rather than being “offered.”
* Grace’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
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