Nearly 30,000 national disability insurance scheme participants in New South Wales are yet to receive one vaccine dose, new figures reveal, fuelling fears vulnerable residents will be unvaccinated when the state reopens.
The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, confirmed on Wednesday the state had reached 80% of first doses administered while 47.5% of the adult population was fully vaccinated.
While the government has published national figures on vaccination rates among NDIS participants, it had previously not released state-by-state data.
This data, obtained by Guardian Australia for the outbreak states, shows vaccination rates among NDIS participants in NSW are above the national average for this cohort, but still below the general population in the state.
According to the figures provided by the federal government, 66.1% of NDIS participants 16 years and older had received one dose in NSW, and 41.9% were fully vaccinated.
There were 83,328 NDIS participants over the age of 16 in NSW, with 28,264 yet to receive one vaccine dose.
In other outbreak states, 61.9% of NDIS participants in Victoria have had one dose, while 42.5% were fully vaccinated. It means 26,906 Victorian scheme participants have not had one jab, of a total of 70,664 participants.
In the ACT, 67.2% have had their first jab, with 51.5% having had two doses.
The national rate of vaccination among NDIS participants at most recent count was 58.7% for first dose, and 39.9% fully vaccinated.
In NSW, the gulf in first dose rates between NDIS participants and the general population – about 14 percentage points – has prompted fears many NDIS participants will still be unvaccinated when NSW reopens.
The majority of Australians aged 18 and over are now eligible for a Covid vaccination if they are willing to consider the AstraZeneca vaccine, and provided they do not have a history of specific health conditions.
In addition to the government’s official eligibility checker, which lists some clinics near your location which might have vaccination appointments available, there are a number of other helpful resources that can help you to find somewhere that has appointments open.
You can find our comprehensive guide to finding a vaccination appointment here.
The NSW government has set a target of 70% double dose to lift stay-at-home orders for fully vaccinated people and expects to hit that milestone in the first two weeks of October.
Jim Simpson, the senior advocate at the Council for Intellectual Disability in NSW, said people with disability were supposed to have been prioritised under the national vaccine rollout.
“We would say that it’s extremely disturbing that the people who are supposed to be in the top priority group are lagging behind the general population,” he told Guardian Australia.
In England, it has been estimated nearly six out of every 10 people who died last year had a disability. Another study found people with learning disabilities in England were eight times more likely to die from Covid than the general population.
Federal health officials have previously said while many people with disabilities were more vulnerable to the virus than the general population, others were not.
The federal government has also said Covid cases among NDIS participants have generally been low in comparison to the general population.
People with disability living in group homes were included in phase 1a of the rollout, while those with an underlying medical condition, including some of those with a disability, were in phase 1b.
In June, the government announced that all NDIS participants aged 16 years and over were eligible for the vaccine.
Serena Ovens, the chief executive of the Physical Disability Council of NSW, also said the vaccination rates among NDIS participants were “hugely concerning”.
Ovens said particular focus was needed on people living in residential care, boarding houses and other settings where there was isolation and a lack of information, as well as people with a “high level of disability”.
“As a community we can’t stay isolated forever, but if and when we open up we need to have ensured that everyone, especially those priority groups including those with disability and other medical conditions that put them at greater risk, have been given every opportunity to be fully vaccinated,” she said.
Simpson said people with disability had faced a range of barriers to getting vaccinated depending on their circumstances.
He was concerned about the NSW plan to open up the state to the vaccinated at 70% double dosed.
“We would argue there should be a much higher rate of people with disability than those 70% or 80% figures before there’s any general community opening up,” he said.
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The government faced criticism earlier in the rollout for the slow pace of vaccinations among people living in shared NDIS residential accommodation, or group homes, but figures had since improved.
National data released on Tuesday meanwhile showed 72.8% of the approximately 26,000 group home residents had received one dose, while 62.5% had received two doses.
Approached for comment about NDIS vaccination rates and the NSW roadmap, the NDIS minister Linda Reynolds’ office pointed to a media release issued on Tuesday.
“We have implemented a number of measures to provide additional support for NDIS participants and their support workers to get vaccinated in a way that works for them,” Reynolds said in the statement.
The statement noted the government had introduced a $150 support payment for NDIS providers to help participants book and attend a community vaccine site.
Among other measures, it said there were also in-reach vaccination services to residential disability accommodation sites, and dedicated disability vaccination hubs run with NDIS providers were available in most states.
Guardian Australia approached the NSW government for comment about whether it would take vaccination rates among people with disability into consideration when reopening.
Inquiries were referred to NSW Health, which said the department followed the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s (Atagi) advice on vaccination for population groups.