The Australian government has not defined the disability groups but has generally included them in the vaccination strategy's 1a and 1b phases.
Countries around the world are striving to achieve universal vaccination. Various ways are being implemented to make vaccines easily accessible to citizens without causing inconvenience. They have tried to prioritize the vulnerable category of citizens first. In Australia, the government also divided the vaccination drive into phases, which shall go one by one and then be combined with additional phases. The phases include 1a, 1b, 2a, and 2b and have started with 1a.
The COVID-19 vaccine national rollout strategy divided the eligible people into phases and assigned the number of doses to each phase. The government is being backlashed from April 2021 about the disabled. Disabled advocates have asked the government to make some reforms and delay the removal of lockdown until the disabled and their family members or caretakers have been vaccinated.
This led to claims arising on the division of phases and their eligibility. One such contention raised is that the people with disabilities were excluded from the 1a vaccine priority group.
The first phase(1a) focussed on vaccinating high priority groups, including quarantine and border workers, frontline healthcare workers at particular risk of exposure to COVID-19, and residents and staff in aged and disability care facilities, informed the Australian Health Government. Further 1b included older adults from 70, younger adults with an underlying medical condition, including those with a disability, critical and high-risk workers including defense, police, fire, emergency services, meat processing, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people above 55.
On August 13, the People with Disability(PWD), Australia, released an open letter that focused on the immediate requirement to protect and vaccinate all the people with disabilities in Australia. It included an 11 point plan to improve the "rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to people with disability in Australia." The plan included recommendations concerning consultation, planning, implementation, reporting, prioritizing in-home vaccinations, maximizing vaccine choice, and increasing transparency around progress reporting.
On August 25, PWD again wrote that the vaccination drive was "significantly lagging behind" in vaccinating people with disabilities. Samantha Connor, PWDA President, laid down statistics of people with disabilities who had been vaccinated under phase 1a and 1b eligibility. Connor believed the statistics reflected the government had "grossly underestimated" the group, and "vulnerable people with disability are not being prioritised in the vaccine rollout."
Connor expressed, "The 1a group should have been at least 10 times higher than the government has calculated because it has excluded clinically vulnerable people with disability in mental health hospitals, boarding houses, jails, juvenile justice centres and disability justice centres."
On September 27, PWD still focussed that the government had deprioritized the group even after the Delta variant had hit the country. So the Royal Commission backed them to push their demands and even launched a campaign "#SpeedUpVaxForPWD."
Under "Who can get vaccinated," the Australian health government website, the priority groups include people with disabilities. Further, a section is dedicated as "COVID-19 vaccine information for people with disability and disability service providers."
Chris Faulkner, COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce for Disability, during a virtual meeting for people with disabilities, their families, and carers on August 5, assured that all the problems being faced are being taken care of. They are working hard to vaccinate people and even reach out to people who cannot visit the centers.
The Australian government has included all categories in the phases. Those with disabilities are prioritized under 1a or 1b depending on their conditions. The PWD, on the other hand, wants a comprehensive plan and timelines for vaccinating all individuals with disabilities, including young people, in all congregate settings not covered by Phase 1a. In conjunction with state and territory governments, the organization asked how the Australian government will finish phases 1a and 1b of the vaccine rollout and asked for plans. They also want a separate vaccination booking system for persons with disabilities and an increase in vaccines approved for that population.
The claim that disabled people are excluded from the 1a vaccine priority group in Australia is misleading. People with disabilities can be vaccinated under 1a and 1b, which is ongoing together.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention, and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organization or your national healthcare authority.