• Friday, Aug 06, 2021
  • Last Update : 12:32 am

OP-ED: Protecting the most vulnerable

  • Published at 06:37 am March 23rd, 2021
people with disabilities
People with disabilities matter BIGSTOCK

Making a case for priority-based vaccinations for persons with disabilities

During the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, persons with disabilities are experiencing exclusion, discrimination, and negligence. We do not want this to be the case when it comes to the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. 

The disability movement and related organizations have grave concerns about prioritizing vaccinations for persons with disabilities, and the accessibility of vaccination procedures, relevant information, venues, and the availability of vaccines based on everyone's permission. 

Keeping this in mind, communities, policymakers, and health care planners in every area should prioritize persons with disabilities and include support networks of their preference in priority groups to obtain vaccinations. 

It should be started as soon as possible, as the United Nations and World Health Organization (WHO) have released specific and strong guidelines, urging governments to install proper administrative and infrastructural mechanisms to ensure that individuals with disabilities have priority access to Covid-19 vaccines.

People with mental, psychological, and physical disabilities need to be brought under emergency and priority-based vaccination programs as:

  • Individuals with disabilities are prone to frequent contracts of Covid-19
  • Individuals with disabilities have more tendency to experience serious symptoms and suffering if they become infected with the virus
  • Physical separation obstructs persons with disabilities' access to livelihoods, independent living, health care, and recovery in disproportionately large numbers

Some health problems that are more common among individuals with disabilities make Covid-19 transmission more deadly. When it comes to how we treat persons with disabilities, it is mostly discriminatory behaviours that have been documented within the health care system. Pandemic restrictions and inaccessible health care information have made health care navigation much more difficult for many persons with disabilities, especially those who are unable to use digital solutions.

Thus, not everyone is able to get the health care they need on time. Covid-19 signs are not understood until it is too late due to communication difficulties, the fact that they appear differently, and the possibility that we mistakenly assign disease symptoms to a person's impairment ("diagnostic overshadowing"). 

Despite federal guidance and moral concerns, essential care partners are often denied access to hospitals to assist with assessing, diagnosing, and managing illnesses, both Covid-19-related and not. Not only does this result in poor treatment, but it may also result in avoidable deaths.

While we continue to advocate for prioritization of vaccines for persons with disabilities, we should:

  • Ensure that persons with disabilities are informed and encouraged to do everything possible to avoid contracting Covid-19 or any other illnesses that need immediate medical attention, by providing them with the health, financial, and social services they need to remain healthy
  • Adapt hospital and community procedures such that persons with disabilities can be quickly screened for Covid-19, isolated, and treated
  • Ensure that persons with disabilities who need an important care partner for physical, psychological, or emotional support should have them present in all health care settings
  • Put mechanisms in place to combat ableism in health care. It's past time for health care providers to examine their perceptions and behaviours toward people with disabilities, to point out prejudice when we see it, and to take action
  • Persons with disabilities must give their permission to receive a Covid-19 vaccine. The independence and admissible abilities of all persons with disabilities, ie, with mental, psychosocial, psychometric, physical, and intellectual disabilities, and autism must not be jeopardized based on the justifications of public benefit or the person's best interests
  • Persons with disabilities and their representative groups should engage in meaningful policymaking and prepare for the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines and related procedures, according to the instructions of international organizations and governments
  • Organizations of persons with disabilities must be adequately resourced to become collaborators in the implementation of awareness initiatives, for example, by reaching out to the most vulnerable people and ensuring that their messages are transparent, inclusive, and available

A global vaccine roll-out is being developed to ensure that Covid-19 vaccination is spread equitably. People with disabilities matter in this respect.

Sumaiya Noor is a development sector research professional. Her areas of interest include Covid-19, RMG Automation, GBV, and Sustainable Development. She can be reached at [email protected]

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