The disability sector has slammed the slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations amid revelations that fewer than 2 per cent of people living in disability residential accommodation have been fully vaccinated.
Health Department officials told Senate estimates on Tuesday about 355 people – or 1.6 per cent – of the 22,285 people living in disability accommodation had received both doses of the vaccine.
About 3500 residents have had either one or both doses.
Asked whether he was comfortable with the “incredibly low” number of fully vaccinated people, Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck said: “We continue to prioritise the work as quickly as we can to get the rollout completed.”
Australia’s 6000 disability homes were to be among the first to receive vaccinations under phase 1a of the plan released by Health Minister Greg Hunt in January.
However, the Disability Royal Commission this month heard the government had decided to focus on completing vaccinations for aged care residents first, given 685 people had died of COVID-19 in aged care, compared with nine people who were National Disability Insurance Scheme participants.
“We were pretty furious when we learnt that the federal government had pivoted to focus on prioritising aged care and away from disability without any consultation,” said David Moody, chief executive of peak body National Disability Services.
“We know from all the research that people with a disability have a greater likelihood of having a very negative outcome when they contract the disease, possibly serious illness or even death.”
Mr Moody welcomed the Victorian government’s decision to fast-track jabs for disability and aged care workers at mass vaccination centres from Wednesday. But he said the federal government needed to mandate the vaccine for disability support workers providing face-to-face support.
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