Children on NDIS given access to COVID vaccination

Matt Woodley

23/08/2021 4:02:44 PM

Australians on the National Disability Insurance Scheme aged 12–15 years will be eligible to receive a Pfizer vaccine from 25 August.

A child looking at the injection site.
Advocates have called for a ‘centrally coordinated’ effort to vaccinate all young people with disability aged 12 and older against COVID-19.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed 40,000 children on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will soon be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
‘We will be opening up as of Wednesday for children 12–15 who are on the NDIS who have not qualified as an otherwise underlying medical condition,’ he said.
‘I think that’s an important protection.’
While the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved Pfizer for use in all children aged 12 and over, it is currently only available in that age group for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and those with an underlying health condition.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) is also yet to release guidance on this age cohort, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week said a decision was ‘imminent’.
The push to vaccinate younger people with a disability comes after an alliance of more than 60 organisations from across Australia published an open letter calling on National Cabinet to ‘immediately implement’ an 11-point plan aimed at improving the vaccine rollout in the sector.
‘As an alliance, we speak with one clear voice and urgently call for transparency around the actions and timeframes Australian governments will take to proactively support and protect people with disability from COVID-19, and urgently call for immediate action from Australian governments,’ the letter states.
‘This is urgent.
‘People with disability must be protected from the impacts of COVID-19 now. The arrangements, communication, and reasonable adjustments people with disability need require collaboration.’
Recommendations contained in the letter include:

  • a ‘clear public plan and transparent timeframes’ on how the Federal Government will complete phases 1a and 1b
  • vaccination of all young people with disability aged 12 and older through a ‘centrally coordinated’ effort, implemented with state and territory governments
  • the promotion of current Medicare flag-fall arrangements (MBS item 90005) to support call-out services to people with disability, so people can be vaccinated in their place of residence
  • the creation of a dedicated and fully accessible vaccination booking system for all people with disability and their supporters
  • the release of disaggregated public data on the vaccination numbers for all people with disability, as well as weekly reports on these numbers for each state and territory. 
Figures provided last month to the Senate COVID committee showed only 34.7% of Australian disability residents and 27.3% of disability workers had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of 22 July.
Australian Federation of Disability Organisations CEO Ross Joyce said the disability sector is ‘united’ in its frustration with the rollout, while Inclusion Australia CEO Catherine McAlpine believes young people with intellectual disability in group homes need to be vaccinated ‘right away’.
‘They should have been vaccinated at the start of the rollout, as they are a group at very high risk of adverse outcomes if they get COVID-19,’ she said. ‘We need all governments to do their bit urgently.’
A ‘disconnect’ between health and disability has been floated as a potential reason for the rollout’s slow pace in the sector, and GP Dr Lara Roeske previously told newsGP people with intellectual disability face ‘extraordinary barriers’ to COVID vaccine access.
‘Some of the challenges are particularly unique to this group, and that really emphasises the need for us to look at the way we’re doing this and really reprioritise,’ she said.
‘Often people [with an intellectual disability] cannot understand consent, nor the risks or benefits of vaccination.
‘They rely on the disability support workers, staff, and family carers to really interpret information as best as possible, and some will still simply not be able to understand the information or the risks or benefits for themselves.
‘GPs do have a very important role.’
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children COVID-19 disability NDIS vaccine rollout

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Rural GP   24/08/2021 7:02:20 AM

I dont get it. When politician announce “ will be eligible “ and “book now” and “urgent”: Just how are 400,000 more patients going to find their way in.? The booking system seems to have one purpose only in regional NSW : push patients just to CALL their GP. We are the only service who answer their phones because we unlike governments we have not developed a blocking phone tree. You can say “No Pfizer bookings till November ( like the hubs) but you then have to provide a way in. I guess they are thinking we will talk everyone who calls over to Astra.? Once you open the door a crack you are flooded. We are a small .General Practice getting 1100 calls a day and losing staff. Feels like the Generals are sending GP’s over the wall. Please solve this problem

Dr Christine Barstad   24/08/2021 8:30:57 AM

The logic of paid carers and NDIS participants meriting the Pfizer but the over 60yo, unpaid parents who live with and care for NDIS participants of any age, merit a vaccine with less efficacy, is lacking. It makes no sense at all. They are the most important carers and if they go down, the NDIS participant then becomes 100% dependent upon the state. There are reasons GPs are having to spend inordinate amounts of time talking to patients with the subsequent turnover in staff. The government needs to re-examine the decisions they are making relative to the efficacy of the two vaccine choices and the pending approval of the Pfizer.