A new text service to support vaccinations for people with a disability has been launched by Minister for Disability Issues, Carmel Sepuloni.
The service, run by Whakarongorau Aotearoa on behalf of the Ministry of Health, is in response to feedback from the disability community and is an addition to the COVID Vaccination Healthline, which already offers dedicated phone and email support for disabled people and people living with impairments to get their COVID-19 vaccination, the Minister said.
“We’re making it easier for the deaf, hard of hearing community and others who may be speech impaired to get vaccinated. They can now text 8988 for access to vaccine information, help to book a vaccination appointment, or support with transport,” Ms Sepuloni said.
“It’s heartening to see good uptake of the phone and email service which has already received over 3,400 phone calls since September. It has not only been a safe haven for disabled people to discuss the vaccination, anxiety or needle phobias, but they’ve been supported to access sites with low sensory settings for example as well as home vaccinations.”
She said the Whakarongorau service was staffed with a dedicated team of advisors who were either living with a disability themselves, had close whānau with a disability or, had extensive experience working with the disabled community.
“Their lived experience makes the service unique and underlines the ethos of The Manaakitanga Journey to enhancing the vaccination experiences for disabled people.”
“One in four New Zealanders identify as disabled or having an impairment. As of the 21st of November, of the 37,269 people supported by Disability Support Services and long term ACC clients nationwide, 86 percent have had their first dose, and 79 percent have been fully vaccinated.
“As we take steps towards more freedoms as a fully vaccinated Aotearoa NZ, we’re committed to ensuring that our vaccination programme continues to be as accessible and inclusive as possible to all New Zealanders.
“We’re in a new phase in our fight against COVID, and an even greater fight to protect the hauora of disabled people and their whānau,” Ms Sepuloni said.
To contact Whakarongau Healthline:
- call the COVID Vaccination Healthline Team on 0800 28 29 26 and ‘push 2.’
- use the new free text option – text 8988
- email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Disability COVID Vaccination Healthline team is available between 8 am and 8 pm Monday to Friday.
- Healthline can book transport and other accommodations via Healthline.
- Alternatively, disabled people can use the NZ Relay Service to contact Health Line, which offers services for Deaf, hard of hearing, speech impaired and deafblind people via: