After a High Court order, the Karnataka government announced people with disabilities as a priority group for COVID-19 vaccination on May 22.
In May, the Karnataka government announced that persons with disabilities, as well as their immediate caregiver, are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine on a priority basis. This was after the Karnataka High Court issued an order in the same regard on April 24. To implement this and ensure that the vaccine reaches as many people as possible, Disability NGOs Alliance or DNA, a collection of non-government organisations working with people with disabilities, is setting up vaccination camps in Bengaluru. Since the government’s order was given on May 22, DNA has conducted around 10-12 camps so far.
DNA is a federation of NGOs working in the disability sector in Karnataka, and they represent these organisations at multiple levels, including at the government level. It also provides support for its member organisations in the form of training, capacity building and raising awareness. Some of its members include Assisted Living for Autistic Adults (ALFAA), Vimarsha Charitable Trust and Ishaanya India Foundation.
After the High Court’s order on vaccine priority was passed, the state Department of Empowerment of Differently Abled and Senior Citizens reached out to DNA, to act as a nodal organisation for the vaccination of people with disabilities in Bengaluru. “In Bengaluru itself, we reach about 100 plus organisations who are members of our alliance,” says Savitha Devi, head of member services, DNA.
The member organisations provide their facilities to set up the vaccination camps, and DNA connects them with the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to conduct the drive. “This makes the process much easier. According to the new rule, one can go directly to a primary healthcare centre (PHC) and get the vaccine. But it would be difficult for them to wait in line. There are many categories of disabilities, and it would be difficult for the persons with disabilities to stand in line. And the public is not very sensitive about this,” Savitha Devi adds. Through the member organisations, they hope to vaccinate at least 100-150 people with disabilities at every camp, according to her.
While there is no completely accurate database, there are about 3.5-4 lakh persons with disabilities in Bengaluru as per the last National Census, says Savitha. However, this number is sure to have grown considerably, given that the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Acts 2016 now includes 21 categories of disabilities, increased from the seven categories of the Persons With Disabilities Act of 1995. “The objective of this drive is to reach out to every person with disabilities. One organisation cannot reach out to all of them, either because we are not aware or they are not members of our alliance. But still, we are trying to connect with non-member organisations as well and reach out to more people,” Savitha explains. The vaccination drive will be open to those persons with disabilities not associated with any organisations as well.
Speaking on the importance of vaccinating people with disabilities on a priority basis, Savitha says that they are much more vulnerable to COVID-19. Their families may have to go out for their livelihood, which increases the chance of infection. “The priority that is given is very important,” she says.
For information about the vaccination camps, contact DNA at 080- 25475165 or [email protected]. The alliance is responsive to emails and calls.