COVID-19 cases and vaccinations

12,721

COVID-19 cases were reported for NDIS participants by May 2022

46% of adults

with disability had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by June 2021 (28% without disability)

25% of adults

with disability said they may not get a COVID-19 vaccination when it became available to them (June 2021)

Introduction

Many people with disability are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, due both to direct impacts of any underlying chronic conditions and to possible challenges maintaining physical distancing and applying other COVID-19 precautions (Department of Health 2021a).  For these reasons, people with disability were one of the priority groups to become eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in the early stages of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout strategy (Department of Health 2021b).

This section provides information on experiences of people with disability with COVID-19 vaccination, as well as on the number of COVID-19 cases among NDIS participants. Note that population-wide administrative data sources about COVID-19 infections, vaccinations and deaths do not include information about disability status, limiting the information currently available about the direct impacts of the virus on people with disability to survey data and the subset of the population who are NDIS participants.


COVID-19 cases among NDIS participants

The NDIA collaborated with other government agencies (including the Department of Social Services, the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, Services Australia, and state and territory governments) to support NDIS participants through the pandemic.

As of May 2022:

  • A total of 12,721 COVID-19 cases had been reported among NDIS participants.
  • There were 74 COVID-19 related deaths (0.6% of NDIS participant cases) (Department of Health 2022). ​

Experiences of COVID-19 vaccination

COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Australia

COVID-19 vaccination in Australia followed a phased approach (Department of Health 2021b).

Phase 1a, which started on 22 February 2021, made the vaccines available to quarantine and border workers, frontline health care worker priority sub-groups, aged care and disability care staff, and aged care and disability care residents.

Phase 1b started on 22 March 2021 (Hunt 2021a). Eligible population groups included adults aged 70 and over, health care workers other than those eligible under Phase 1a, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 55 and over, younger adults with an underlying medical condition, including those with a disability, and critical and high risk workers including defence, police, fire, emergency services and meat processing.

Phase 2a started on 3 May 2021. It opened vaccinations for adults aged 50–69, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18–54, and critical and high risk workers other than those eligible under phases 1a and 1b (Prime Minister of Australia 2021a).

The originally planned Phase 2b (the balance of the adult population) and Phase 3 (those under 18 years of age) were rolled out in a revised form:

  • From 8 June 2021, vaccination was opened to all adults aged 40 and over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 16 and over, NDIS participants aged 16 and over, and carers of NDIS participants of any age (Prime Minister of Australia 2021b).
  • From 9 August 2021, children aged 12–15 with specific medical conditions, or who identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or lived in a remote community, were able to receive a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (Hunt 2021b). This was expanded to all NDIS participants aged 12–15 from 25 August 2021 (Reynolds and Hunt 2021) and, from 13 September, to all children aged 12–15 (Prime Minister, Minister for Health and Aged Care, Minister for Education and Youth 2021).
  • From 30 August 2021, all Australians aged over 16 became eligible for vaccination (Prime Minister of Australia 2021c). From 1 October 2021, the eligibility was extended to all those aged 12 years and over for both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines (Hunt 2021c).

Based on the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey data, in June 2021, adults with disability were more likely than those without disability to report:

  • having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine (46% of adults with disability compared with 28% of adults without disability)
  • having received their vaccination from their usual GP (50% compared with 31%)
  • being motivated to get a vaccine because
    • it was recommended by a GP or other health professional (38% compared with 28%)
    • ­they had health conditions which made them more vulnerable to COVID-19 (28% compared with 13%) (ABS 2021d).

Among those who had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine:

  • 75% of adults with disability and 73% of those without disability reported that it was very easy to get a COVID-19 vaccination, with 2.9% and 2.1% reporting that it was not at all easy
  • the most commonly reported factors which affected their ability to get a COVID-19 vaccination were
    • waiting time to get an appointment too long (7.8% for adults with disability and 8.6% for adults without disability)
    • ­wanting a different vaccine to what was available to them (6.0% and 2.8%)
    • ­difficulty in finding out how to get a vaccine (5.5% and 3.6%) (ABS 2021d).

Among those who had not had, or were not sure if they had had, a vaccination:

  • 74% of adults with disability and 77% of adults without disability reported knowing where to get a vaccination
  • the most common reported factors that affected, or would affect, the ability to get a COVID-19 vaccination for themselves were
    • wanting a different vaccine to what was available to them; this response was more likely for adults with disability (24%) than those without disability (12%)
    • ­waiting time to get an appointment too long (9.2% and 12%) (ABS 2021d).

Attitudes to COVID-19 vaccination

In June 2021, people with and without disability said that their decision whether to get vaccinated for COVID-19 most depended on (Figure COVID.5):

  • recommendation from GP or other health professional, with this response more likely for adults with disability (33%) than those without disability (20%) (of those who said they would get vaccinated or were not sure)
  • recommendation of the Department of Health, with this response similarly likely for adults with disability (15%) and those without disability (20%)
  • whether the vaccine had been in use for a long time with no serious side effects, with this response less likely for adults with disability (12%) than for those without disability (20%) (ABS 2021d).

Figure COVID.5: Most common main reasons to get vaccinated against COVID-19, by disability status and month, 2021

Clustered bar chart showing the top 5 reasons adults agree to getting COVID-19 vaccination, by disability status. The reader can select to display the chart by months, for February, April, May, or June 2021. The chart shows that, for people with disability, the most common reason to get vaccinated against COVID-19 was recommendation from GP or other health professional (33% in June 2021). For adults without disability, the most common reason until June 2021 was the vaccine being in use for a long time with no serious side effects.

Visualisation not available for printing

Source data tables: COVID-19 (XLSX, 314 kB)

These results were generally similar for February, April and May 2021 except (Figure COVID.5):

  • in February 2021, more adults with disability chose the recommendation of the Department of Health as the reason (25% compared with 15% in June 2021)
  • fewer people named the reason as whether the vaccine had been in use for a long time with no serious side effects in June 2021 than did in February (12% of adults with disability and 20% of those without disability in June 2021, compared with 21% and 29% in February 2021) (ABS 2021a, 2021d).

In June 2021, 13% of adults with disability said they would not get a COVID-19 vaccination when it became available and was recommended to them, and a further 13% were not sure. Proportions were similar for those without disability.

For adults with and without disability who said they would not get a vaccination or were not sure, the main reasons for both groups in June 2021 were (Figure COVID.6):

  • concerns relating to potential side effects (53% and 52%)
  • concerns about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine (8.5% and 16%)
  • health or medical condition (8.0% and 7.6%) (ABS 2021d).

Figure COVID.6: Most common main reasons to not get vaccinated against COVID-19, by disability status and month, 2021

Clustered bar chart showing the top 5 reasons adults do not agree to getting COVID-19 vaccination, by disability status. The reader can select to display the chart by months, for February, April, May, or June 2021. The chart shows that the most common reason to not get vaccinated against COVID-19 between February and June 2021 was concerns relating to potential side effects, both for adults with disability (53% in June 2021) and those without disability (52% in June 2021).

Visualisation not available for printing

Source data tables: COVID-19 (XLSX, 314 kB)

 Comparing these results with data collected in December 2020, and February, April and May 2021:

  • concerns about effectiveness and side effects of the vaccine had fallen between December 2020 and February 2021 for both groups, after which the proportions choosing these reasons remained relatively stable
  • there appears to be a downward trend in the proportions of people saying their health or medical condition is the main reason not to get vaccinated, however the numbers of people choosing this response were too small to say whether this trend is significant (ABS 2020, 2021a, 2021b, 2021c).

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