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20 July 2021


SUBJECTS: Vaccine access for NDIS participants and their carers
KYLIE BAXTER, HOST: Bill Shorten, Federal Labor spokesperson for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, has just called in, concerned that Tasmanians living with a disability are still waiting for a COVID vaccination. Good afternoon, Bill, how are you?
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: Good, Kylie, can you hear me well, is that okay?
BAXTER: Yes, the line's not too bad. What are your concerns in relation to the vaccines?
SHORTEN: The Morrison Government promised that people who work with people with disabilities and people with severe disabilities would all be vaccinated by Easter of this year. Clearly, that hasn't happened. And the problem is for people with disabilities, even though everyone else was able to go out when lockdown finishes, a lot of people with disability is still scared to leave because they have reduced immunities. And also, when a carer can't turn up to look after a person, that's a disaster for the person with disability. So, they should just be at the front of the queue and they’re not.
BAXTER: You are slightly low there on your levels, if you can come off speaker phone by chance, perhaps that's not possible. Maybe you're driving and you're not able to.
SHORTEN: I’ve pulled over safely.
BAXTER: Yeah. Okay, fantastic. Yeah, that sounds better. So, do you feel that that option has not existed? We just heard the premier, Peter Gutwein, saying that people can book for vaccinations, that there are plenty of spots around Tasmania for people in that situation.
SHORTEN: Well, that's true. But first of all, Tasmania, despite its relative small size compared to Queensland and Western Australia, has many remote communities. So, it's not always easy for people with disabilities to get around. If you've got a mobility impairment, it's just not that easy. I'm not trying to make trouble, but the point is, people with disability were promised that the feds would come in and help them in their group accommodation. I know of disability support workers who are in their own time, under their own steam, getting a jab at their own cost, just to make sure that the people they're caring for are okay. But for people in group accommodation, this is scary. It's a real problem. And just simply saying, book yourself in and wheel yourself down to the doctor isn't always an option, is it?
BAXTER: Yeah. So, you're saying it's not quite as easy as that. You really need to have mobile clinics attending these places and people can't just get out, get in and make those appointments.
SHORTEN: Frankly, the GP services work well for middle class people. You can get in, you know, if you get around. But if you're in a very disadvantaged group and mobility is hard and you're scared of going out, well, that's where I think – and it's not the state government I'm particularly blaming here, but the feds promised they would deliver teams to go and inject people and, you know, and test people and vaccinate people. And I just that's not happening fast enough. And we're going to have lockdowns until we get a big percentage of our population vaccinated. And disabled people need that bit of extra support, don't they?
BAXTER: Yeah. We appreciate you calling in with your thoughts today.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Kylie. Thanks for keeping attention on the issue. It’s the only way things will get better.
BAXTER: Bill Shorten, Federal Labor spokesperson for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, concerned that Tasmanians living with a disability are still waiting for COVID vaccination and that appointments might be able to be made, but it's not that easy to get to those appointments.