Covid-19: the disabled community “an afterthought” in the deployment of the vaccine in New Zealand, according to an expert
People with disabilities were an “afterthought” in the government’s deployment of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to an expert.
Critics say methods to help people with disabilities get vaccinated were discussed with the government earlier this year, but were not adopted until October and November.
But Disability Affairs Minister Carmel Sepuloni said people with disabilities had been a priority in the deployment, and cited high vaccination rates as evidence.
Bernadette Jones (Ngati Api, Nga Wairiki), senior researcher at the University of Otago, is a Maori health expert and has a motor disability.
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She was part of a team that provided advice to the government on how it could help people with disabilities and Maori since the start of the pandemic.
Jones said advice has been given, including suggesting online tools to organize transportation to accessible locations, as early as February 2021.
But, according to Jones, the advice was not followed, and she believes people with disabilities were treated as “an afterthought.”
“Vaccination has not been well deployed for people with disabilities, and it has not been well deployed for Maori,” she said. “The advice was not followed soon enough.”
Jones said she had requested an SMS service for the deaf and hard of hearing community for “months” before it was implemented.
“It just took so long, you can’t get it out later, you had to do it at the start,” she said.
The government launched an online tool in October to help people with disabilities find and organize transport to accessible vaccination centers.
An SMS service to help people who are deaf or hard of hearing access vaccine information and make appointments was rolled out in November.
Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero has been in regular contact with the government throughout the pandemic.
She said she gave advice on breaking down barriers for people with disabilities when deploying the vaccine and was part of a collective group that offered ideas such as online tools and text-based services. early 2021.
“If we look at the time between these ideas raised earlier in the year and when they were rolled out, it certainly would have been good to see these measures put in place earlier,” she said.
“At the time these things were put in place, New Zealand was well and truly in the general rollout of the vaccine. “
But Disability Affairs Minister Carmel Sepuloni said how the government has acted with vulnerable communities like people with disabilities in mind throughout the pandemic.
“We moved quickly enough to put together a whole-of-government group on accessible formats to ensure that communications are accessible and reach our community with disabilities,” she said.
“I think in some cases the information was not as accessible or as quickly accessible as we would have liked, but I think lessons have been learned throughout the pandemic that have been applied, reapplied and can be applied in the future as well. “
Government data, communicated to Things Tuesday, showed that 90 percent of people with disabilities received at least one dose of the vaccine and 85 percent received two or more doses.
This is higher than the immunization rates for able-bodied people, where 83 percent received at least one dose and 77 percent received at least two.
Sepuloni said she felt a “sense of relief” knowing that people with disabilities were able to access the vaccine during the pandemic.
“We’re going to continue to watch this space progress as well to make sure that we keep trying to increase the numbers, but also with the booster shots in mind,” she said.
“I hope people with disabilities know they were a priority consideration from the start when the pandemic first hit.”