News ‘Forgotten, disregarded, dehumanised’: Disability advocates slam vaccine rollout ‘debacle’

‘Forgotten, disregarded, dehumanised’: Disability advocates slam vaccine rollout ‘debacle’

Commodore Eric Young says COVID-19 vaccinations for the disability sector will soon be ramped up. Photo: AAP
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Forgotten. Disregarded. Dehumanised.

That’s how people living with disabilities feel about Australia’s “debacle” of a vaccine rollout.

Sam Connor has muscular dystrophy, heart and lung issues and uses a wheelchair.

After much trying, the People With Disabilities Australia president secured her first vaccine on Saturday.

The federal government on Monday said 12,521 people living in disability care had received their first dose.

But Ms Connor said that – and the number of vaccinated people with disabilities more broadly – was a drop in the ocean.

“We have been forgotten, omitted and disregarded in the biggest threat to us,” she told AAP.

“We are the ones who are going to die from this and the fact that we don’t get spoken about, it feels really dehumanising.”

Ms Connor described the vaccine rollout as a debacle for the disability community and said the federal government was not being transparent.

It hadn’t provided figures for younger people living in aged-care homes, or those in mental health wards and in prisons, she said.

“Until everybody with a disability who requires care and support and who might be clinically vulnerable to the virus is vaccinated, then it’s not acceptable.”

Commodore Eric Young, speaking alongside Health Minister Greg Hunt in Melbourne, said the focus was on aged care.

“As we complete the residential aged-care facilities, we will start to roll out vaccine service providers and continue ramping up the disability sector,” he told reporters.

Labor’s disability spokesman Bill Shorten said disability care workers had also been forgotten.

“There are thousands and thousands of people with disabilities for whom they’ve never been able to come out of isolation since COVID started because their workers haven’t been vaccinated,” he said.

“We might well end up with mandating vaccinations for disability workers, but at the moment, it’s a pipe dream.”