Covid vaccines for people with disabilities

 

Sir, – With Covid-19 transmissions in the community surging and concerns growing over vaccination delays, people with disabilities are extremely concerned about contracting the virus. Many have underlying health conditions that could cause complications and hospitalisation if infected. Yet at this time, they are not recognised as a vulnerable group by the Government.

In the absence of regular day services, many people with disabilities have been confined at home since the virus took hold almost a year ago, adding additional stress.

People we support are eager to get the vaccine and are highly concerned about how long they will wait with vaccine supplies lower than planned. With no knowledge of when this day will come, they are feeling forgotten by the State’s vaccination programme.

John Grace, a wheelchair user from Kilkenny, who has suffered from chest problems, has echoed the concerns of many people with disabilities saying: “We don’t want people with disabilities falling victim to such a rampant disease. We don’t want any more fatalities. We need this vaccine as soon as possible.”

We are encouraged by the Government’s commitment to supporting frontline vaccinations in the disability sector, but both sides of the equation need to be protected. At the current time, people over 65 in residential settings with disabilities are rightly getting vaccinated. Worryingly, those living independently in the community and being assisted at home are not.

This is a real issue. Our members have told us they are very keen to be vaccinated, but are worried that they will be left waiting.

We are grateful to our frontline staff in Irish Wheelchair Association, who are among the many healthcare workers going beyond the call of duty to keep people safe and well. They have been supporting people with physical disabilities in homes across Ireland throughout the pandemic, with an emergency response team reaching people who have Covid-19 or have had to isolate.

With concerns about vaccination supplies growing, we are urging the Minister for Health to include people with disabilities on the priority list and ensure their protection during this highly infectious third wave. – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL DOYLE,

Director of Assisted Living;

MEABH SMITH,

Head of Communications,

Irish Wheelchair

Association,

Dublin 3.