Chennai: Prioritise giving the covid 19 vaccine for people with disabilities, including those with developmental disabilities, Madras High Court told the Tamil Nadu government. This was said during the hearing of public interest litigation which advocated people with conditions including cerebral palsy, autism or any developmental disability should be vaccinated before others.
The petition was filed by disability rights activist Meenakshi Balasubramanian. It was being heard by the bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy on Friday. The petitioner had argued that people with disabilities had some unique needs that make keeping a physical distance, wearing masks, and constant sanitization difficult.
Difficulties faced by people with a developmental disorder
Giving the example of people with developmental disorders, the petitioner said wearing a mask can be very difficult for many of them. “They are not used to masks. Besides, many of them have drooling problems which make wearing a mask more difficult,” said the plea. The petition also included reasons why social distancing was not an option for people with disabilities who often depend on others for their personal care.
The petition also pointed out that persons with disabilities are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, developing severe symptoms from COVID-19, and dying from the disease. It even cited reports indicating that persons with learning disabilities are over six times more likely to die from COVID-19.
While countries like UK and Australia have put people with disabilities in the priority group, keeping with the WHO classifications, the Indian government does not include them among those getting the vaccines before others.
The court has issued a notice in the issue to the state as well as the central government.