The Final Commissioners’ Report of Public hearing 12: The experiences of people with disability, in the context of the Australian Government’s approach to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, has been tabled in parliament today after being presented to the Governor-General.
A draft report was released on 27 September 2021, prior to the easing of restrictions in some states and territories. It contained 17 proposed findings and seven proposed recommendations, including finding the vaccine rollout was ‘seriously deficient’ for people with disabilities.
The Final Report – published on the Royal Commission’s website – takes into account supplementary submissions of the Australian Government made in response to the draft Report. The Final Report identifies failings by the Australian Government in rolling out vaccines for people with disabilities during the pandemic. It sets out in final form the Commissioners’ findings and recommendations concerning the COVID-19 vaccine rollout by the Australian Government as it affects people with disabilities, particularly people in residential disability settings and people with intellectual disabilities.
The draft report was released publicly in September, given the rapidly changing circumstances and proposed easing of restrictions at that time. This allowed urgent consideration to be given to the proposed recommendations.
We are now witnessing a significant easing of restrictions in states and territories as they achieve specified targets of double dose vaccination rates of 70% and higher.
Both the draft Report and the Final Report warn that if restrictions are eased before all people with disabilities, particularly people in residential disability accommodation and people with intellectual disability, have the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, they will face significant risks to their health.
The Final Report, therefore, continues to strongly recommend that the Australian Government should use its best endeavours to ensure that all people with disabilities, particularly NDIS participants, people living in residential disability accommodation and people with intellectual disability have, and appreciate that they have, the opportunity to be fully vaccinated; and that all active disability support workers have been fully vaccinated.
The Royal Commission will continue to assess the progress of the vaccine rollout for people with disabilities and for disability support workers and hopes to hear from them, their families and supporters about their experiences as restrictions continue to ease.