COVID-19 Data analysis

We have compiled analysis on available data about the impacts of COVID-19 on disabled people in New Zealand.

Vaccination uptake

Graph showing vaccination uptakes - data is in text below

The Social wellbeing agency examined vaccination uptake among disabled people, using analysis from the IDI. Disabled people were found to have higher rates of vaccination (atleast one dose), with 90% being vaccinated in November 2021, compared to 83% of non-disabled people. Māori and Pacific disabled people had lower rates of vaccination, (at 84% and 85% respectively), however, this was still higher than the vaccination rates of non-disabled people. The high rates of vaccination are likely a result of early prioritisation of disabled people in the COVID-19 vaccination strategy implemented in New Zealand. There are lower vaccination rates among those having difficulties with hearing and remembering (89% and 83% respectively), as well as individuals with autism and learning/ intellectual difficulties (at 85% for both). Of particular concern are those aged 12 to 24 with intellectual/learning difficulties, having a vaccination rate of 82%.

The highest vaccination rates are among disabled people residing within Auckland DHB (at 92%), as well as those in residential care facilities (at 95%).

A survey commissioned by Ministry of Health (Horizon survey), which ended in October 2021, does raise concerns of increasing unmet needs at vaccination centres by disabled people. 68% of disabled people expressed that needs were definitely met in July, compared to 56% in October.

For those choosing not to vaccinate, concerns expressed within this survey included, adverse reactions to the vaccine due to pre-existing conditions, with one respondent commenting “I am disabled with peripheral neuropathy and had a bad reaction to a flu shot some years ago. No one can guarantee that this will not happen again if I receive the COVID-19 vaccination”.

Health and wellbeing impacts

Graph showing health & wellbeing impacts - data is in text below

A survey run by the Health Quality and Safety commission in 2021, found that Disabled people were more likely to face barriers in access to primary care and emergency services post COVID-19 lockdowns. This includes:

  • 60% of disabled people not able to access healthcare during level 3 and 4 of COVID-19 restrictions, compared to 45% of non-disabled people
  • 30% of disabled people not seeking healthcare as the normally would due to fear of contracting COVID-19, compared to 21% of non-disabled people
  • 17% of disabled people had a hospital appointment cancelled, compared to 7% of non-disabled people
  • 8% of disabled people avoided ED when they normally would have attended, in comparison to 4% of non-disabled people.
  • 49% of disabled people were able to access their GP on the same or next working day, in comparison to 55% of non-disabled people. Of particular concern, was that only 34% of disabled people living in Whanganui, Northland and Tairāwhiti DHBs, were able to access the GP on the same or next working day, compared to 55% in Waitemat1a, Capital & Coast, and Auckland DHBs

In relation to the telehealth appointments, disabled people, similarly to non-disabled people, most liked the aspect of not having to visit others when unwell when using videocall or telephone. Of note, is also that a much higher proportion of disabled people (23%) stated feeling more relaxed being at home, compared to 16% of non-disabled people. Conversely, 14% of disabled people noted liking nothing about telehealth appointments, compared to 11% of non-disabled people. This highlights a variety in needs of disabled people. Particularly disabled people stated concerns of not being able to show physical symptoms (34%), finding it harder to hear or understand their GP (13%), and finding it more difficult to explain themselves (32%). One surveyor commented "I have to use hearing aids and I find it easier face-to-face as I must lip read a bit and have facial feedback that I have understood when responding to a question".

The NZ Health Survey (2020/21) found similar results in relation to access barriers, with 11% of disabled people overall stating an unment need for GP due to COVID-19, compared to 6% of non-disabled people.

The HLFS wellbeing module (2020) also found concerning levels of loneliness among disabled people, with 46% reporting feeling lonely most/all of the time, compared to 14% of non-disabled people.

The NZ Health Survey, also has identified an increase in hazardous drinking behaviour among disabled people (from 25%  in 2018 to 27% in 2020). The smoking quit rate has increased for disabled people (from 10% in 2018 to 16% in 2020), however this accompanies an increase in the use of e-cigarettes (from 5% IN 2018 to 9% in 2020). The vegetable and fruit intake meeting required standards has also declined (from 20% in 2018 to 26% in 2020).

Since 2018, more disabled people have reported meeting sleep recommendations (from 47% to 50%), however mood/anxiety disorders have gotten worse (increase of 5 percentage points since 2019).

Educational impacts

There has been an increase in the proportion of disabled people reporting to have no qualification since 2020 (increase by 4 percentage points since the first lockdown of COVID-19). On the other hand, proportion with postgraduate qualifications or higher has remained steady (at 21%).

Employment impacts

The Household Labour force Surveys (2017-2021), has found that although underutilisation rates slightly increased in late 2020, this has since declined by 2021 (now at 22% for disabled people, compared to 25% in 2017).

Similar effects can be seen across employment and labour force participation rates for disabled people, which reduced slightly in late 2020, and then climbed up sharply in 2021 (by 3 and 4 percentage points respectively). Unemployment rate was at 8% for disabled people in 2021 (a reduction by 3 percentage points since 2018).

Impact on rights & protection

The How's it going for the disability community survey (2020), identified key needs during lockdown, such as more PPE, priority slots at supermarkets and increasing accessibility & timeliness of COVID-19 information. Some concerns stated included increased anxiety, fatigue, loneliness, as well as some whānau / caregivers stating worries over behaviour management (e.g., anger, aggression) during lockdown. A COVID-19 pulse survey conducted by Ministry of Justice also find some anecdotal evidence of people reporting difficulty sticking to the rules due to their physical disability.

Impact on attitudes

The Kiwis count survey has found a decrease in disabled people having trust for the public sector brand in 2021, with 57% having high trust compared to 61% in 2020.

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