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‘Persons With Disabilities Must Be Prioritized In Accessing COVID-19 Vaccinations’

A local human rights lobby group, Institute for Community Development in Zimbabwe (ICOD Zim), has challenged the government to prioritize persons with disabilities during the COVID-19 roll out to ensure there is inclusivity.

Zimbabwe rolled out the corona vaccination program yesterday with Vice President Constantino Chiwenga receiving the first jab of the 200 000 vaccines which were received from China earlier in the week.

The first roll-out phase is targeting 200 000 frontline workers who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus while.

However, the rollout is silent on PWD as the course of action that will be taken to cater for their vaccination needs.

In a statement, ICOD-Zim said the government must immediately provide information and guidelines on the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines with emphasis on the possible implications to persons with disabilities especially those with mental challenges and others already battling with other chronic illnesses.

“The government and other stakeholders in the frontline of COVID-19 response to timely disseminate correct and reliable COVID-19 information in disability accessible formats such as braille, large print and videos with captions and sign language,” reads the statement.

ICOD-Zim also urged the key ministries to help quell rumours surrounding the vaccine efficacy.

“The relevant ministries need to help demystify various misconceptions amplified on social media platforms around the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine for various groups of people in their diversity and the government to facilitate the realisation and enjoyment of the right to health for persons with disabilities in accordance to section 83 of the Constitution by prioritising this group in the vaccination,” the statement further reads.

People with disabilities have been forgotten or told to stand near the back of the line for many things prior to and since the start of the pandemic, including accessible information, financial support and health care.

Pandemic restrictions and inaccessible health-care information have made health-care navigation for many disabled people even more complicated, especially those less able to manage digital solutions.

This means that not everyone can access needed health care in a timely manner.

The International Disability Alliance (IDA), representing more than a billion persons with disabilities worldwide, recently called on policymakers and health-care planners in every region and in every country to include persons with disabilities and support networks of their choice in priority groups to receive vaccinations, and to make sure that all persons with disabilities can access vaccinations on the basis of accessible and understandable information, through informed consent.

“We call on the United Nations, including the World Health Organization to issue clear and strong recommendations in this regard, and to take all necessary measures to ensure that governments comply with their obligations to persons with disabilities with regard to priority access to COVID-19 vaccinations and related information and processes,” IDA said.

According to the World Health Organization, persons with disabilities are categorized as vulnerable populations during public health emergency situations.

Institutional, environmental and attitudinal existing barriers exacerbate, and new ones appear in the times of public health emergencies, restricting further the exercise of basic rights for persons with disabilities, including the right to life, the right to access to health care, and the right to independent living.

This has been extensively documented during the global COVID-19 pandemic

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