Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Persons with Disabilities Still Face Obstacles During COVID-19 Vaccination

Groups of people with disabilities still encounter difficulties when participating in the COVID-19 vaccination program. Various difficulties faced by people with disabilities such as lack of understanding about COVID-19 vaccination. Then, vaccination locations that are not easily accessible to the lack of understanding of comorbidities for people with disabilities.

Various obstacles faced by people with disabilities when participating in the COVID-19 vaccination program are known from a rapid study in 12 regions, namely East Java, DKI Jakarta, North Maluku, Bekasi City, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), Bengkulu, Lampung, South Sumatra, Kalimantan. Central, South Sulawesi, Maluku, and Aceh.

The Chairperson of the Indonesian Women with Disabilities Association (HWDI), Maulani Rotinsulu, said that the various obstacles were one of them regarding unconstructive information about the COVID-19 vaccine circulating among the disabled community, especially women. He said this in an online discussion “Covid-19 Vaccination Program and Its Support for Vulnerable Groups”.

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“We received a response from 12 regional HWDI branches, saying that members are still afraid of the vaccine and do not want to come to the vaccination site. For example, at the rehabilitation center in Makassar, they provide a quota of 300 people but only 80 packages are used,” said Maulani, Monday (19/7).

A woman in a wheelchair and her son, wearing masks and plastic shields amid the COVID-19 pandemic, sell snacks along a street in Pekanbaru, Riau, June 20, 2020. (Photo: WAHYUDI/AFP)

Therefore, it is necessary to socialize and disseminate information directly to people with disabilities through community centers and organizations of persons with disabilities.

“There needs to be an educational information tool that can reach people with disabilities down to the village level as well as efforts to dispel rumors or misunderstandings about vaccines,” said Maulani.

Some Local Governments Support Vaccination for the Disabled

Maulani continued, special vaccination programs for disability in some areas have indeed received support from local governments, for example in Sidoarjo which provides pick-up and drop-off for people with disabilities. Then, in NTB, vaccines for people with disabilities were focused on the Social Service and mental hospitals.

Students and therapists wearing masks wait in a hall, while members of the Indonesian Red Cross disinfect a school for disabled children, amid concerns about the COVID-19 virus, in Jakarta. March 18, 2020. (Photo: ADEK BERRY/AFP)

Students and therapists wearing masks wait in a hall, while members of the Indonesian Red Cross disinfect a school for disabled children, amid concerns about the COVID-19 virus, in Jakarta. March 18, 2020. (Photo: ADEK BERRY/AFP)

However, the problem of limited information about the COVID-19 vaccine is still encountered in disability communities. Moreover, the leaders of the disability community still find it difficult to provide information that can counteract rumors about a COVID-19 vaccine.

“It is hoped that local governments and other institutions working on vaccinations can reach out to the disabled community. Not only asking the masses but also educating them. Mainly there must be educational tools for people with disabilities so that they are confident to come to vaccinate,” said Maulani.

Maulani said, in addition to the lack of understanding of people with disabilities regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. Another problem found in a number of areas is that vaccination locations are still not friendly to people with disabilities, especially related to access.

“Locations that are not accessible or not reachable by persons with disabilities as reported in Bireuen, Aceh, that vaccinations are on the second floor of the building. Then, the location of the vaccination center that is crammed or queuing and of course people with physical disabilities is very tiring like what happened in Central Kalimantan, “he said.

People with disabilities are also often faced with the problem of lack of understanding about comorbidities. So far, people with disabilities are considered to still lack understanding of their own health information. This makes them unable to provide accurate information regarding their medical history.

Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine for mass vaccination at an emergency clinic on a soccer field in Surabaya, East Java, July 6, 2021. (AFP)

Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine for mass vaccination at an emergency clinic on a soccer field in Surabaya, East Java, July 6, 2021. (AFP)

“Related to this situation, people with disabilities need a more detailed health examination when they are going to carry out vaccinations,” concluded Maulani.

Meanwhile, researcher from INFID, Lily Widyastuti, said that Indonesia is one of the countries with the lowest vaccination rate in the world. So far, based on data as of July 11, 2021, only around 15 million Indonesians have received the full dose of vaccination.

“This means that only six percent of the Indonesian population has received the full dose of the vaccine. So the launch of vaccination in Indonesia was very slow at the beginning due to various factors such as the necessity to import vaccines and raw materials for mass production. We lack the infrastructure to distribute vaccines,” he said, who was also present at the online discussion.

A man is injected with the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine in Pusong village, Lhokseumawe, Aceh, July 8, 2021. (Photo: AZWAR IPANK / AFP)

A man is injected with the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine in Pusong village, Lhokseumawe, Aceh, July 8, 2021. (Photo: AZWAR IPANK / AFP)

According to Lily, the enthusiasm of the Indonesian people has indeed increased in participating in the COVID-19 vaccination. However, behind the increasing enthusiasm of the people, the government does not have sufficient vaccine supplies. “And not distributing vaccines evenly to all parts of Indonesia,” he said.

As a result of the low and uneven distribution of vaccines, said Lily, Indonesia has a COVID-19 case fatality rate (CFR) of 2.62 percent as of July 12, 2021, which is higher than other Southeast Asian countries.

“Indonesia also has a higher cumulative death rate than Southeast Asian countries with 66,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Then, Indonesia’s bed occupancy rate (BOR) is more than 80 percent,” he said.

Based on data from the COVID-19 Task Force regarding the number of vaccinations as of July 19, 2021, as many as 42,095,531 people have undergone the first vaccination. Then, 16,400,351 people have undergone a second vaccination. [aa/em]

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