Vaccine (in)equity. No right of way for persons with disabilities in the EU

Vaccine (in)equity. No right of way for persons with disabilities in the EU
By Aïda Regel Poulsen

As the General Secretary for European Federation of Hard of Hearing I have received the e-mail from European Economic and Social Committee on Vaccine (in)equity. And being a Dane I am somewhat puzzled about the picture drawn on the Danish situation.

I see stated by a Ms Holst in the information from European Economic and Social Committee, that in Denmark we are not very well informed and that we are only receiving the vaccine according to age. Overall we do receive a call for when it is our turn to get the vaccine and that goes after age. The older the sooner. But it is good to know that also each GP – general practitioner doctor (family doctor) can give the vaccine to a limited number of relatives to people with disabilities – so that the strong person in a household does not risk to be taken ill by COVID-19.

AstraZeneca is out of the program now in Denmark, but this is also due to the low numbers being ill with COVID-19 in our country. And only this morning it was on the news, that in Copenhagen people can sign up in case one day there is left over vaccines, they will be called and can come and get a vaccine. Johnson & Johnson is still on hold here.

In this respect it does seem to me that the Danish system is delivering a very high level of information, and even I, with a HL, am able to follow this information. On TV eg every day there are short videos with information and they are subtitled in a very good quality. Also websites provide information on COVID-19. For sure also our system can improve, but it is also important to learn from the good stories.

With reference now to living with hearing loss, I recently went for a quick test. This turned out to be no way quick.

I was standing – and I mean standing – in a queue for over one hour. I know that in other places people have been queueing up for more than two hours. For people with mobility issues this is absolutely ‘no go’ – it is far too long to be standing up and they will leave the queue for that very reason.

No doubt the staff did their very best, they too did not have just one break during this one hour I was in the queue. As it became my turn to have the test taken, the young female test-person wore both face mask as well as a face shield. She started talking for a very long time – I asked her if she was trying to explain something to me, because I stood no chance of hearing her at all. I have hearing loss.

She carried on – she only did her very best. In the end I instructed her: could you just explain and SHOW to me how I should do? I will cooperate, but I stand no chance of hearing anything of what you say. She did so and used gestures, I read her eyes that she was doing her best and tried to meet me best possible – but when standing that long in the queue, I could have read all the information on a screen in the room or on a piece of paper on how this test would be carried out during that time and about how I would get the result of the test afterwards.

I had to hand the test-person my mobile phone and she operated it to show me where to find the result. This too could have been shown on a screen or in a leaflet.

This last part is an area where I hope for improvement in Denmark as well as World wide.