Could vaccinations reduce your risk of mortality as a person with disability?

Posted 2 weeks ago by Georgie Waters
Getting an annual vaccination can help protect you from influenza, but are administration clinics accessible enough for people with disability? [Source: Shutterstock]
Getting an annual vaccination can help protect you from influenza, but are administration clinics accessible enough for people with disability? [Source: Shutterstock]

Minister announces new vaccination support for people with disability

Key points

  • Fifty-four percent of adults with disability are vaccinated against the latest influenza strains, compared with 47 percent of adults without disability, current as of May 6, 2024
  • Rooms with wide doors and easier forms are some ways that clinics and pharmacies could become more accessible for people with disability
  • Researchers of a new study suggest that using microarray patches with microscopic projections could be the future of vaccine administration

People using disability services have almost five times greater risk of mortality than people without disability, according to data from the Australian Insititute of Health and Welfare. Identifying ways to reduce this difference is crucial to ensure that all Australians have good health. 

Around 4.4 million Australians currently live with disability and find that accessibility difficulties can make daily life more challenging. As the government recently announced reforms to the Disability Transport Standards, accessibility for people with disability in other areas such as the health sector may require updating too.

Data from health organisations also suggests that ‘people with certain types of disability have a higher risk of getting flu-related complications,’ so people with disability should discuss with their doctor how the influenza vaccination could benefit them.

There are also myths that autism spectrum disorder is caused by vaccines, which is false and has been debunked. To read more about this and other myths, head to this article: Autism myths and misconceptions.

Adults with disability are more likely to be vaccinated for influenza compared to people without disability, according to the latest data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. However, access barriers may be preventing even more people with disability from getting the latest influenza vaccine. 

Ways that clinics and pharmacies may be inaccessible for people with physical disability include not having wide enough doorways or only having access to clinic rooms via stairs. While this is difficult to rectify in the short term, phoning ahead to enquire about the physical restrictions in a building can reduce any associated worry and means you can receive your vaccination in an accessible venue. 

For people with autism spectrum disorder or who have other sensory needs, the bright lights and music in pharmacies can make entering and remaining in the store a challenge. To manage this, remember to bring sound-cancelling headphones. Wearing sunglasses during your appointment may be helpful to dim the lighting as bright lights make it easier for the pharmacist or nurse to administer the vaccine appropriately. Additionally, going through a visual story about what the vaccination process will look like may provide a sense of structure and reassure the person with autism spectrum disorder. 

While the vaccination consent forms are generally only a page long, reading the information on these pages can sometimes be too small for people with low vision. Ask if you can complete the information in advance on a computer or if a staff member can help you complete the document when you arrive. 

Although these barriers should be addressed, new developments regarding vaccinations for people with disability have recently been announced. This update will hopefully make it easier for people with disability to protect themselves against influenza.

The Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler stated that from April 29, 2024, pharmacists will be given support to administer vaccinations to members of the public who may not be able to attend clinics or pharmacies. 

“Community pharmacists play a vital role in our healthcare system — and they will play an even bigger role by administering free, life-saving vaccines to eligible patients living in aged care homes and disability homes,” said Minister Butler. 

However, it’s not just about making locations more physically accessible that could make getting vaccinations easier for people with disability. 

Researchers have found a possible solution to problems associated with vaccination needles. Panicking, moving and having tense muscles can make vaccination administrations an unpleasant experience, according to the Cleveland Clinic

In the study, researchers found that the ‘use of microarray patches to vaccinate children has shown that the method is safe and induces strong immune responses.’ These microarray patches stick onto the skin like a plaster but have tiny projections that allow the administration of vaccines without needing the typical needle and syringe. 

While more research is required to determine long-term efficacy and safety, creating a needle-free method for vaccination could be seen in mainstream administration in the future. 

In the meantime, avoiding the flu with a needle vaccination can help prevent you from getting ill as the cooler months appear. 

Symptoms of flu can include feeling achy, fatigued, coughing, a soreness of the throat and headaches. While COVID-19 and the flu are both contagious respiratory illnesses, each is caused by different viruses. While the symptoms may appear similar, getting a COVID test can determine if you have COVID-19 or the flu.

To reduce your risk of the common flu and COVID-19, ways to protect yourself include:

  • avoiding close contact with others;
  • cleaning your hands frequently with hand sanitiser;
  • getting fresh air and meeting with others outside rather than indoors;
  • maintain healthy habits, such as eating well and getting enough rest.

Some Australians are eligible for free influenza vaccinations, including people over 65, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions. To check your eligibility, have a look at the National Immunisation Program fact sheet. 

Read more about protecting yourself from sickness in the colder months in this article:

Expert attacked for encouraging vulnerable Aussies to get vaccinated.

How would you like vaccine administration to become more accessible?

Let the team at Talking Disability know on social media. 

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