Fears of ‘significant’ COVID deaths for people living with a disability  

28 September 2021

Data from the UK in 2020 showed 60 per cent of people who died of coronavirus had a disability, prompting fears of a “significant number of deaths” if Australia opens up too quickly, the ABC reports.

In its draft report today the Disability Royal Commission found it would be "unconscionable" if people with disability had not been given the opportunity to be fully vaccinated before the country opens up.

The inquiry described the vaccine rollout as "seriously deficient" and recommended the Federal Government use its best endeavours to "ensure people with disability and support workers are fully vaccinated before any easing of restrictions", the ABC reports.

"It would be grossly unfair, indeed unconscionable, if any people with disability who have not been given the opportunity to be fully vaccinated by the time the 70 per cent threshold is reached are denied the freedoms available to people who have been fully vaccinated," the inquiry said.

Professor Anne Kavanagh, University of Melbourne Disability and Health chair, welcomed the royal commission’s report but said it could be "stronger in terms of its goals".

"I've been getting angrier and angrier at the lack of action from government," Professor Kavanagh was quoted by the ABC.

"Unless we achieve high vaccination rates, we know that people with disabilities will die."

Professor Kavanagh was one of the witnesses at the disability royal commission's hearing in May that examined the experiences of people with disability and the vaccine rollout.

She said if Australia opened up "too much" at 70 per cent double vaccinated, all the models indicated a "significant number of deaths" in the disability community.

"Pretty much every model has told us that the hospital systems will be completely overwhelmed," she said.

Professor Kavanagh cited data from the UK in 2020 that showed 60 per cent of people who died of coronavirus had a disability.

"If people with disabilities are more likely to die and get serious disease, they will go to hospital and they will be [sick] at a greater rate than everyone else and that will actually put additional pressure on the hospital system for absolutely every citizen in this country," she told the ABC.