Chennai: Only 2,441 of the 13,500 people with disabilities aged above 18 in the city are willing to take the Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Greater Chennai Corporation. And only 88 out of the 911 people with severe disabilities have agreed to take the shots with the GCC.
“I am the only earning member of my family. If something happens to me, who will take care of them?” asked T Gnanajothi, an accountant who has cerebral palsy. Gnanajothi lives with his wife and son, who is also disabled, and refused to get the shot when the health workers came to enquire. “Vaccine hesitancy is high amongst the general public, and maybe more among those with disabilities. The authorities should’ve started spreading awareness, six months ago, when we got the vaccines. But it’s not too late now,” said S Namburajan, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently Abled and Caregivers.
Namburajan said the state must also have a doctor as part of the helpline team. “A doctor will help clarify doubts and this might increase the number of people agreeing to take the vaccine,” he said.
The corporation now vaccinates at home those availing themselves of maintenance allowance from the state. But activists say many more people with disabilities need this service. Smitha Sadasivan, Disability Rights Alliance TN, said people with different kinds of developmental and intellectual disabilities, who have been staying home for more than a year, may get confused, scared, or triggered environmentally if they are brought out all of a sudden to a public setting. “Many persons with disabilities need personalised support in movement, transportation, etc.”. Smitha has submitted to the government a list of more than 200 such people who need vaccination at home. “70 of them got the shots at home, we are waiting for others to get ,” she said.
Officials from the differently abled department said, "Locally, zonal officers of corporation go to people’s houses on their own initiative. And we also connect them to experts for clarification."
Persons with disabilities can call the helpline 18004250111 and video call helpline 9700799993, to schedule vaccination.