NZ's oldest Thalidomide survivor fully vaccinated

A campaign targeting New Zealanders living with disability is aiming to boost vaccination numbers among the community.

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Barry de Geest is an advocate for Covid-19 vaccination, after originally being hesitant. Source: 1 NEWS

Taikura Trust launched Tiaki today, with Barry de Geest among those attending to get his second jab.

De Geest is New Zealand's oldest Thalidomide survivor, born without arms and legs.

He was initially hesitant to get the Covid vaccine, but has since become an advocate.

“For my entire life I have been wary of vaccinations, but after seeing the harmful effects of Covid-19 around the world and in New Zealand, I am proud to say I support the vaccine,” he said.

“I will be getting the vaccine and I would encourage every New Zealander, disability or not, to do the same.

“A lot of New Zealanders with disabilities don’t have faith in the health system and I can understand that, for a long time I was also hesitant. But I have done the research and I know now that the vaccine will keep me and others safe and it will help immune compromised people stay safe and healthy.

“Based on my conversations with people, vaccine hesitancy and access are significant issues among tāngata whaikaha/disabled people. Some are medically fragile and grapple with the risk of experiencing serious side effects due to underlying health conditions.”

Coronavirus has disproportionally affects people with disabilities. According to Ministry of Health data, 37 per cent of around 45,000 people who receive Disability Supports and Services nationwide and are eligible for vaccination have been fully vaccinated.

The the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre has also teamed up with Sommerville School and Parkside School, both in Auckland, to vaccinate students and their families.

The schools cater for students with complex social, physical and educational needs. 

It comes the week National's disability issues spokesperson Penny Simmonds said plan was urgently needed to address barriers to testing and vaccination.

“A lack of public transport to and from vaccination points, long periods waiting in queues and busy, over-stimulating environments just aren’t suitable for many disabled people," she said.