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Call to prioritise people with disabilities during Phase 2 of Covid-19 vaccine rollout

9 Feb 2021

A recent epilepsy and disability training workshop by Epilepsy SA Western Cape on a farm in Franschoek. Picture Supplied

By Shakirah Thebus

Cape Town – Disability rights and advocacy groups have raised several concerns over the Covid-19 vaccine rollout and nationwide strategy, particularly for persons with disabilities.

Epilepsy SA Western Cape Director Wendy Nefdt said there are many concerns related to the nationwide vaccine rollout, with the most challenging being the possible side effects the vaccine may have on persons with epilepsy.

“I have not heard of trial runs with persons with neurological conditions. Further challenges include access to the vaccine at the local health care centres. With the discontinuation of the basic grant for all persons, poverty and access to health care abounds. People cannot access services without an income. This places a serious constraint on persons with epilepsy and the community as a whole,” said Nefdt.

Nefdt said persons with disabilities should be prioritised during Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout, particularly people with limited to no mobility and who experience difficulty in maintaining physical-distancing.

“Some people have serious comorbidities dependent on their type of disabilities and are at high risk of contracting the virus.”

Phase 1 will include the vaccination of healthcare workers across both the private and public sector as well as those outside the sectors.

This week, Epilepsy Awareness Week will be held between February 8-14. Nefdt called on the public to contribute towards the 50 million steps campaign. The campaign encourages members of the public to join or organise a walk and help reach the targeted 50 million steps- a step for every person affected by epilepsy globally.

According to the World Health Organisation, epilepsy is a chronic non-communicable disease of the brain, characterised by recurrent seizures.

Blind SA said: “We encourage all blind and partially sighted persons including other persons with different disabilities to choose to be vaccinated.”

The organisation serving the blind as well as partially sighted community, said it supported the C19 Peoples Vaccine campaign. The campaign aims to ensure equitable vaccine access and allocation for all.

The Health Justice Initiative said, “We have concerns with the vaccine rollout and vaccination strategy for the whole country, not just for the Western Cape.”

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