The Ghana Society of the Physically Disabled (GSPD) in the Eastern Region has called for a special allocation and arrangement for its members to receive the COVID-19 vaccines since they fall under the vulnerable group of people.
Mr Samuel Agyekum, Eastern Regional Coordinator of the GSPD made the call in an interview with the Ghana News Agency under the, “Mobilising Media for Covid-19” a project being implemented by the Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) and the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) after a meeting to discuss the way forward for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) with regards to COVID-19.
The Mobilising Media for COVID-19 project, aims at contributing to the international public health efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 and it’s impact on human rights, with emphasis on women’s and girls rights across 12 implementing countries in Africa with funding support from Global Affairs, Canada.
The Regional coordinator explained that persons with mobility challenges such as the blind and disabled could not join long queues, which characterized the recent Johnson and Johnson vaccination exercise adding that, “without such arrangement for us, our members would find it difficult to vaccinate and that would put many others at risk.”
He said that many of their members had underlying health conditions like hypertension, and diabetes in addition to their disabilities, which experts say could aggravate COVID-19 infections.
“Looking at the centres for the vaccination, it may not be favourable to PWDs who may not have the ability to move to the vaccination centres in terms of transportation” and said, they were ready to partner with the GHS to come up with a convenient arrangement for their members to vaccinate.
He said series of sensitisations have been done on the observation of the safety protocols for their members and the need to be vaccinated saying, “We, therefore, want the Ghana Health Service to consider them as a priority group in the vaccination exercise”.
According to the GSPD, their checks showed that only three persons with disabilities in their group have received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccines administered in the Region recently and said it was an indication that “PWDs need some special dispensation to be fully covered”.
Over 16,000 Persons are estimated to be Living with Disabilities scattered across the 33 Municipal and Districts in the Eastern Region according to statistics and these people often have others who provide some form of support to them on their daily routines.
Globally, it’s estimated that over one billion people representing approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population lives with a disability with a higher disability prevalence in developing countries including Ghana.
The 2010 Population and Housing Census estimates that over 5 million Ghanaians are living with some form of disability.
The World Bank notes that persons with disabilities are more likely to experience adverse socio-economic outcomes such as less education, poorer health outcomes, lower levels of employment and higher poverty rates.
Some of the members who spoke to GNA disclosed that during the rollout of the first vaccination in the region, they went to some of the centres but were turned away with the explanation that it was for the frontline workers and when they insisted the queue was so long that they couldn’t join and so had to go back.
Meanwhile, Dr John Ekow Otoo, Deputy Director of Public Health, Eastern Region told the GNA that the first vaccines were mainly for health workers and a few non-health workers who were considered frontliners and that a total of 30,636 have received the AstraZeneca first dose vaccines out of which 872 had received the second dose.
He was optimistic that as the government had indicated, there were arrangements and plans for more vaccines to cover everybody.
Dr Otoo said the Region would soon have its portion to vaccinate the public and gave the assurance that the concerns raised by the PWDs would be considered, adding that, “it should not be difficult to give them some flexible arrangement because our interest is for people to accept the vaccines.”