Vax blitz for Victorians with a disability

·3-min read

Ten new COVID-19 vaccination pop-up hubs will be launched to speed up vaccination rates among Victorians living with a disability.

The Victorian government has pledged $5 million to boost vaccinations by establishing pop-up clinics in areas of concern throughout October, and expanding the disability liaison service with an extra 16 officers.

Additionally, from Friday all state-run vaccination centres will accept those with a disability without a booking.

Ageing and Disability Minister Luke Donnellan said as of September 30, about 71 per cent of the state's National Disability Insurance Scheme participants aged over 16 had received their first dose of a vaccine.

This was slightly higher than the national average of 67 per cent, but lower than Victoria's general population, which had 80.8 per cent on that date.

"We need to keep pushing," Mr Donnellan told reporters on Thursday.

"It's just not acceptable where it is at the moment. We can't open up when we've got people living with disabilities, with vulnerabilities, if they're not at a higher rate of vaccinations."

However, since the Commonwealth is responsible for vaccinating residential disability workers and residents, the federal opposition has questioned why it has not stepped in.

"Victoria is on the brink of opening up and it's clear the state government wants to ensure people with disability are safe when lockdowns end," opposition NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten said.

"The Morrison government needs to do more to get Australia ready for lockdowns ending. The Victorian government has been forced to step in and fill the gap. It's not good enough."

NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds said vaccinations "are a shared responsibility" and commended the Victorian government's announcement.

"I call on Mr Shorten to stop the fearmongering and to work productively with the sector, providers and the disability community," she said.

As part of the announcement, several people living with a disability shared their experiences with COVID vaccines.

Margherita Coppolino, 61, said she was relieved after receiving her first jab at a state-run hub, following the "scariest 18 months" of her life.

"I was so relieved that I was now in a better position to live a longer life and not worry about being found dead in my apartment," she said.

"The sense of feeling safe is a feeling I don't think I have felt in such a long time."

Martin Heng, 41, who is quadriplegic, said it was important people with disabilities get vaccinated because they were more likely to be in contact with vulnerable people.

"I would find it very irresponsible not to be vaccinated," he said.

"I would be devastated to think I was part of a transmission chain that led to someone else who was in a high-risk category being hospitalised or, even worse, dying."

Catholic Health Australia, an advisory body for community care providers, said it was good to see more barriers to the vaccine removed.

"As a community we have to do everything in our power to make it as easy as possible for people with a disability to get vaccinated," CHA director of strategy and mission Rebecca Davies said.

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