Media Release by Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC

Release of draft Disability Royal Commission Report on disability vaccine rollout

The Government acknowledges the publication of the draft Commissioners’ Report on Public Hearing 12 – the experiences of people with disability, in the context of the Australian Government’s approach to the COVID 19 vaccine rollout

Significant progress has been made in vaccinating NDIS participants since the Royal Commission hearing in May, on which these draft observations are largely based. 

The Federal Government has implemented a range of measures to increase the opportunity for NDIS participants and workers to get vaccinated and we will continue to work with states and territories and the disability community until the job is done. 

I and Federal Government officials have been working closely with the disability community, NDIS providers and unions to work through hesitancy and barriers to vaccination, to ensure we implement appropriately accessible measures to support people with disability to have the opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. 

More than 173,200 (or 64.8 per cent) of NDIS Participants aged 16 years and over have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination. This is a fivefold increase (or 450%) since early June. 

Of this, two in three (66%) NDIS participants aged 16 years and over, and living in shared accommodation, are fully vaccinated – well ahead of the general population. 

More than 13,000 (or 27.2 per cent) NDIS participants aged 12-15 years have already had at least one dose of the vaccination. This is a significant effort in the less than five weeks NDIS participants aged 12-15 years have been eligible. In NSW and Victoria vaccination rates for 12-15 year old NDIS participants are above 35% first dose, and in the ACT this is above 45%. 

Since early July 2021, more than 114,600 NDIS screened disability support workers have been vaccinated. This equates to more than 73.9 per cent who have received one dose and 59.3 per cent who have received two doses. This is a fourfold increase (or 330%) since early July. 

People with disability are continuing to be prioritised for vaccinations, with more than 4,000 sites having received Commonwealth in-reach, as well as through community-based vaccination hubs specific to disability, implemented in partnership with NDIS providers. 

Australia’s experience in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic is significantly different to many other countries around the world, with fewer infections and the second lowest deaths per capita in the OECD. 

Among NDIS participants, we have seen an infection rate of 79.5 cases per 100,000 NDIS participants (0.080%) and a mortality rate of 3.3 deaths per 100,000 NDIS participants (0.003%). 

Among the broader population, we have seen an infection rate of 255.4 per 100,000 population (0.255%) and a mortality rate of 4.4 deaths per 100,000 population (0.004%). 

We owe a debt of gratitude to our carers, health workers and NDIS providers for working so hard to protect some of our most vulnerable Australians, particularly through the ongoing support they are providing to enable vaccination of participants, strong infection controls and outbreak management. I also sincerely thank the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission (NDIS Commission) staff on their ongoing work in these areas. 

Clearly, since the Royal Commission hearing in May there has been a significant increase in the vaccination effort, and we will continue to adjust our response to ensure this complex cohort is supported in the right way to get vaccinated, if they so choose. 

The Federal Government has implemented, and continues to implement, a range of measures to increase the opportunity for NDIS participants and workers to get vaccinated: 

  • More than 10,000 vaccination sites are available across Australia, including 4,500 GPs, 3,600 community pharmacies, ACCHOs, Commonwealth vaccination clinics, disability-specific vaccine hubs and 600 state and territory operated vaccination clinics. 
  • A Home Visits MBS item now allows GPs and other medical practitioners working in a general practice setting who conduct a COVID-19 vaccine suitability assessment service at a patient’s place of residence. 
  • A temporary support of $150 is available to all eligible NDIS providers to help NDIS participants attend an offsite location for vaccination. Support coordinators across Australia have commenced active contact with each of the participants they support to ensure they are able to book and attend a vaccine appointment, where they wish to do so.
  • The Commonwealth’s Disability Gateway, Carer Gateway, NDIA Contact Centre and NDIS Commission Contact Centre are also offering assistance to thousands of people with disability and carers to directly organise vaccination appointments. 
  • The Commonwealth in-reach service continue to offer vaccines in shared disability residential accommodation and has established dedicated disability hubs in partnership with NDIS providers to provide safe and accessible locations for NDIS participants, their carers and workers. More hubs will be established in coming weeks to focus in local government areas across Australia where vaccination rates are lower. 
  • The NDIA is finalising a partnership with The Pharmacy Guild of Australia to provide priority access through community based pharmacies, with details to be announced later this week. 
  • Commonwealth officials will meet with states and territory officials over the coming week to share local government area data to assist them to implement additional state based options to support the acceleration of vaccine uptake in LGAs where vaccination rates are lower. 
  • Ongoing communications to NDIS participants, families, carers, providers and the disability community through the NDIA Call Centre, NDIS Commission Call Centre and the Disability and Carers Gateway to ensure they are informed of key developments in the COVID-19 Vaccine Program; and 
  • A webinar and other outreach activities to continue with NDIS provider representatives this week. 

As a shared responsibility, I will continue to work with state and territory governments and the sector on the implementation of additional measures to ensure NDIS participants and disability workers have every opportunity to get vaccinated. 

I strongly encourage all NDIS participants and disability workers to be vaccinated as soon as possible, to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community.