Protecting people living with disability from the latest COVID-19 wave

The Albanese Labor Government is committed to protecting people living with disability and their carers from the latest COVID-19 winter wave and will launch a targeted text message campaign to protect their health.

Beginning in August, text messages to more than a million disability support pension recipients and carer payment recipients will highlight the opportunity to access a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose and that anti-viral treatments may be available to people living with disability who contract COVID-19 to prevent severe illness.

The text message campaign will be targeted and the messages have been developed following consultation with people living with disability and their carers.

Importantly, the Government wants to convey the expansion earlier this month of access to antivirals.

On July 11, 2022 the Government extended eligibility for those Australians who test positive to COVID-19 to be able to access antivirals on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). This includes Australians aged 30 and over who are living with disability and have at least one other identified risk factor.

Weekly prescriptions for oral antivirals have nearly tripled since the Albanese Labor Government expanded access.

The text message campaign comes as Commonwealth, state and territory Disability Reform Ministers will today meet in Canberra for the second time in as many months to discuss the important issues impacting people living with disability.

Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill Shorten and Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth will represent the Commonwealth.

Ministers will discuss the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 supports for people living with disability and their carers, NDIS appeals cases in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and opportunities for the future of supported employment.

Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth, said ensuring people living with disability were protected as best as possible from the latest COVID-19 wave was crucial.

“This text message campaign will contact up to 40,000 people a day beginning in August in an effort to boost vaccination rates of disability support pension recipients and carer payment recipients,” Minister Rishworth said.

“We know that vaccination rates for people on the disability support pension are lower than the general population.

“The Albanese Labor Government is committed to leaving no one behind and holding no one back and that includes people living with disability.”

Minister Butler said it is crucial that Australians living with disability have a plan for if they get infected with COVID-19.

“While vaccination against COVID-19 remains the first and best defence, oral antiviral treatments offer another valuable tool in Australia’s response to COVID-19,” Minister Butler said.

“Weekly prescriptions have nearly tripled since the Albanese Government expanded access. We know these medicines can prevent at-risk people from severe COVID-19, hospitalisations and worse.

“This campaign will be critical for letting eligible Australians know how to quickly access these life-saving COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments.”

Minister Shorten said the COVID-19 pandemic had thrown up its share of challenges for all Australians, but especially for people with disability and their families and carers.

“My first action as Minister for the NDIS was to convene a roundtable with key representatives from the disability community to hear the views of people with disability on COVID-19, and to learn from the mistakes of the previous government,” Minister Shorten said.

“The pandemic is still a great cause of anxiety for people with disability and ensuring they are informed and supported to access vaccination boosters and oral antiviral treatments is vital to their protection.

“I am positive the Albanese Labor Government has the right measures in place to reduce the very real risks that COVID-19 poses to the disability community.”