Vaccination lagging among disability workers

A survey by the union representing the disability sector has found more than a third of disability workers haven’t made any attempt to access a covid-19 vaccination.

A survey by the union representing the disability sector has found more than a third of disability workers haven’t attempted to access a covid-19 vaccination.

Natalie Lang

Only 64 per cent are either fully or partially vaccinated, or have booked in for a jab, the Australian Services Union says.

The ASU surveyed more than 1,000 workers in the NSW and ACT disability sector and found only 19 per cent are fully vaccinated and only 25 per cent have had their first dose.

Thirty-six per cent are not ‘on track’ to get vaccinated at this point.

Paid vaccination leave

But ASU NSW and ACT secretary Natalie Lang says the survey also indicated it’s possible to get 85 per cent in the disability sector with more access to the Pfizer vaccine, paid vaccination leave for workers and better information.

“The vaccination rates in the disability sector could be rapidly increased if the government took just a few small steps to support the workforce to access the vaccine,” she told Community Care Review.

“This includes providing priority access to Pfizer for all disability workers.”

Ms Lang says nearly half the workers in the disability sector are casual and don’t have access to paid leave.

“Having to choose between a pay cheque or the vaccine is unacceptable and will lead to lower vaccine rates,” she said.

Mandatory vaccination a ‘lazy response’

However, the union has stopped short of backing mandatory vaccination for disability workers, saying it will cause workers to quit the industry.

People with disability already have the option to choose to get services from someone who is vaccinated, Ms Lang said.

“Mandating the vaccine would be a lazy response to a problem that could be easily overcome with support for the workforce,” she said.

“We asked ‘if you haven’t accessed the vaccine why not’, and we can see that we could easily get 85 per cent vaccination rates with just a few small adjustments, including making Pfizer available and providing more information about vaccine efficacy.

“What we want to see is people putting their hands up and saying ‘I want to access the vaccine because they’ve been supported to make that choice’.”

It comes as the federal government considers  making vaccination against covid-19 mandatory for disability workers from the end of October.

Following a meeting of National Cabinet on July 9 Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPCC) would consider the evidence for mandatory vaccination of disability support workers in high risk settings.

“In August the AHPPC will consider making it mandatory for disability support workers who support NDIS participants in high risk disability residential settings to have had at least their first dose of covid-19 vaccine by October 31,” he said.

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