Statement by ICOD Zim on the need to Prioritise Persons with Disabilities in the Covid-19 Vaccine Roll-out Plan

Introduction

Institute for Community Development in Zimbabwe (ICOD Zim) is a non-partisan, woman founded and led, non-governmental organization for women operating in Masvingo and Midlands provinces of Zimbabwe. The organisation primarily targets women and girls; as well as women and girls with disabilities and their children distinctively, in rural, commercial farm and mining communities. ICOD Zim seeks to empower, promote and protect the rights of women and girls including; young women and girls with disabilities and their children. The organization has engaged and consulted its members who are women with disabilities through its various platforms, in view to come up with a common position on the implications of the Covid-19 vaccination and the need to prioritize persons with disabilities in Covid-19 vaccine roll-out plan.

Preamble

Concerned that women with disabilities have not been consulted in the Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy and that persons with disabilities in the roll-out plan have been excluded as a priority population. Further taking into consideration that the government Zimbabwe has received its first consignment of 200,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China this week, and there are another 1.8 million expected next week from Russia, India and the UK;

Cognizant that any potential neglect of the disability community will result in deprivation of the group from realizing the right to health as enunciated in section 81 of the constitution and further responsibility of the government to promote, protect and facilitate the realization of constitutionally provided rights for persons with disability in accordance to the Section 83 of the constitution of Zimbabwe. Currently, there are no guidelines on the side effects of the different Covid-19 vaccines and country research which is publicly available on the effects of the vaccines on persons with mental disabilities who are vulnerable to drugs;

Noting the role of government through Ministry of Health and Child Care to protect the lives of people through quality health service and further guidance we are receiving as a country from World Health Organizations in the face of Covid-19 pandemic in line with the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) which is an embedded within the Agenda 2030 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);

Acknowledging the efforts by the government through Ministry of Health and Child Care and other stakeholders to curtail the spread of Covid-19 whilst ensuring that the country has a Covid-19 vaccine and; the current plan to immunize 60% of the total population with the hope to achieve herd immunity;

Perturbed by the missing disability prioritisation in the Covid-19 vaccination plan and roll-out that was released by the Ministry of Health and Child Care which seemingly ‘excludes’ persons with disabilities from priority groups.

Thereof; ICOD Zim is imploring the government of Zimbabwe, through its various ministries and organs in the fight against Covid-19, at all levels, as a matter of urgency to undertake the following in addressing the aforementioned challenge:

  1. The government to immediately provide guidelines on the side effects of Covid-19 vaccines with emphasis on the possible implications to persons with disabilities especially those with mental challenges and others already battling with other chronic illnesses;
  2. An urgent engagement of institutions of, and persons with disabilities to deliberate on how they can be included in the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out plans.
  3. The government and other stakeholders in the frontline of Covid-19 response to timely disseminate correct and reliable Covid-19 information in disability accessible formats such as braille, large print and videos with captions and sign language;
  4. The relevant ministries need to help demystify various misconceptions amplified on social media platforms around the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccine for various groups of people in their diversity; and,
  5. The government to facilitate the realization and enjoyment of the right to health for persons with disabilities in accordance of the Section 83 of the constitution by prioritizing this group in the vaccination roll out plan.

Source: Institute for Community Development in Zimbabwe Trust

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