"It is vital for personal care attendants, health workers and persons with disabilities, chronically ill people to have access to the vaccine," said Arman Ali, Executive Director, NCPEDP Credit: File image

New Delhi (PTI) Around 30 disability rights organisations have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan urging them to accord priority to persons with disabilities for COVID-19 vaccination.

The disability rights groups, including the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People, Ektha and Sama Foundation, highlighted several reasons why persons with disabilities should receive the shots on priority.

Among others, they counted physical vulnerabilities, preexisting medical conditions, communication barriers, close contact needed with others for personal care (activities of daily living), social isolation and disruption in social networks, discrimination in access to healthcare facilities resulting in deprioritisation in times of limited resources.

“It is vital for personal care attendants, health workers and persons with disabilities, chronically ill people to have access to the vaccine. They should (also) be part of decision-making about vaccine priorities and planning for how future public health emergencies are handled,” said Arman Ali, Executive Director, NCPEDP.

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Further, collectively, the sector has demanded clarity on scheduling the COVID-19 vaccine for persons with disabilities.

Ektha co-founder Rajiv Rajan said persons with disabilities are the most vulnerable groups when it comes to the pandemic.

“Many of us lack immunity. Most of us cannot maintain social distancing because we need support for our day to day activities. Many of us cannot understand what is going on around us as modes and means of communication are not accessible to many of us,” he said.

Rajan said the prioritisation in vaccination is a reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities and not providing it is discrimination.

Prime Minister Modi rolled out India’s inoculation drive against COVID-19 on Saturday and said the two vaccines being deployed will ensure a “decisive victory” for the country against the pandemic.

India has approved two vaccines — Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech and Covishield from the Oxford/AstraZeneca stable being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India — for emergency use in the country.

According to the government, the shots will be offered first to an estimated one crore healthcare workers and around two crore frontline workers, and then to persons above 50 years of age, followed by persons younger than 50 years of age with associated comorbidities.

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