Kay Doyle, a Dublin wheelchair user, asks the Government to prioritise people with disabilities for vaccines
When it comes to your health, it’s said that no news is good news. But not when you’re waiting for a Covid vaccine.
I have been a wheelchair user for over twenty years and am one of thousands of people with disabilities who are not currently on the Government’s vaccine priority list. Due to my disability, I have underlying health conditions, including lung problems, that could cause me serious complications and hospitalisation if I contracted Covid.
With Covid-19 transmissions in the community surging and concerns growing over vaccination delays, people with disabilities like me, are extremely concerned about contracting the virus. But with no vaccine on the horizon, we are feeling abandoned by the State’s vaccination programme.
Last September in the middle of the pandemic, I feared the worst having woken up with a severe shortage of breath. I was incredibly sick and was admitted to hospital, where I was diagnosed with pneumonia. It’s a sign of the times when you are relieved to have pneumonia.
As I lay in the ward in Tallaght hospital, I could see Covid patients down the corridor through double doors and could hear them coughing. I was on the right side of those doors and with my own history of lung problems, felt deeply for those who weren’t.
As a wheelchair user, I have had a weakened pulmonary system since having spinal surgery 20 years ago. I had empyema and a collapsed lung, which left me with scarring. Since having pneumonia, I am taking two inhalers.
Since the pandemic hit, I haven’t left the house. But it’s hard to fully cocoon when you’re in my position, as you need home support. People come into my home every day. And while my personal assistants take every precaution to ensure my safety, it is always a concern for me.
I am incredibly grateful to frontline healthcare staff, who are going beyond the call of duty to keep people safe and well during this time. They are vital for me and many others with physical disabilities who live independently at home.
Right now, people over 65 living in residential settings are rightly getting vaccinated. But people like me who are living in the community and receiving support are not.
The Government has committed to vaccinate frontline health workers in the disability sector, but both sides of the equation need to be protected for all of us to be safe. And while it feels difficult to be talking about vaccine priority lists when everyone needs the vaccine, we must make sure that high-risk people such as people with disabilities are protected as soon as possible, so that nobody with a vulnerability gets left behind.
Put simply, I’d like the vaccine to prevent me from dying. I have long life ahead of me. I am a naturally sociable woman in my 60s with a family and young grandchildren. I need to State to recognise that me and many others with disabilities are high risk to Covid. We need reassurance. We need to be on a priority list.
We’re asking the Minister for Health to listen to us and to think about us, as we are really vulnerable. We fear getting Covid, but we’re being forgotten about. We need Covid vaccines.
Please get involved and help us to advocate for vaccines for people with physical disabilities by contacting your local TD here Who is my TD? and asking them to make you a priority.