• Sat. Jun 26th, 2021

The parents of a man with profound disabilities say the “hurtful and cruel” comments by political and business leaders on COVID-19


May 18, 2021

The parents of a man with profound disabilities say the “hurtful and cruel” comments by political and business leaders on COVID-19 and the number of vaccinated Australians living with disability “completely miss the point”. 

Key points:

  • Just 4 per cent of people in disability residential accommodation have received a COVID-19 vaccine
  • Asked if that was “good enough”, David Littleproud said “yes, because it’s part of the scheduled rollout 
  • Those affected say they say feel “forgotten and abandoned”

Paul and Melinda Adderley’s son Ken lives in disability residential accommodation in Sydney and has multiple disabilities that put him at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.

The 28-year-old was classified as eligible to be vaccinated in phase 1A of the rollout, but three months after it began the Adderleys say there’s still no word on when he’ll receive the needle.

Just 4 per cent of people in disability residential accommodation have received a COVID-19 vaccine, with families affected giving evidence at a hearing of the disability royal commission on Monday. 

When asked on Tuesday if that figure was “good enough”, senior federal government Cabinet Minister David Littleproud said “yes, because it’s part of the scheduled rollout”.

But Mr Adderley said they felt like their son and many others with complex conditions had been “forgotten and abandoned”. 

Paul Adderley, whose son Ken lives with multiple disabilities but has not yet received a COVID-19 vaccination.

He said Mr Littlepround’s comments — and those of Virgin chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka who said Australia needed a plan to reopen its international borders and accept some people may die —  were “disgraceful”. 

“And to say that people like Ken can just go to the doctor or the mass vaccination clinics is laughable. People like Ken are extremely fragile. It’s impractical and dangerous.

“They need to be taken by registered nurses, that displaces qualified staff, and they can’t stand in the queue and they can’t wear masks.

“I’ve had my vaccination, my wife’s had her vaccination — but no-one in the group home has, and that’s just cruel.”

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt on Monday said he expected the rollout of vaccines to people with a disability would lift in the coming weeks.

And Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday morning that “we’ve got to step up the performance there”. 

Ken is one of 23 people with complex disabilities residing at his facility, which went into lockdown when the pandemic started.

The Adderleys were not able to see Ken for nine months, and taking Ken home for family gatherings was no longer possible.

They hoped the promise of a priority vaccine would mean the lives of all the residents could return to normal.

“The residents all have extremely compromised health systems so if the virus did get in the house it could be catastrophic,” Mr Adderley said.

“It’s also quite demoralising not being able to come and see our son knowing full well that if he got the vaccine when it first came out we’d almost be back to normal.”

Ken’s group home is one of many run by Achieve Australia, which supports 300 people with disability and employs 1,300 staff.

Achieve Australia chief executive Jo-Anne Hewitt said people living with disability were being “left behind”. 

The organisation’s chief executive Jo-Anne Hewitt said only 40 staff had been vaccinated — but not one client had received the jab.

“We’ve provided all the information we needed to gather about our residents but things have really gone quiet,” Ms Hewitt said.

“We’re now seeing other members of the community being vaccinated but people who are a priority are being left behind and we can’t have people with disability being left behind yet again.”

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