Great news, there’s a vaccine. That means the disability community will have some relief soon, right? Wrong.
Once again, the needs of the disability community have been overlooked by their placement in phase three of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan–the same phase as able-bodied and neurotypical young adults and children. Many disabled people have chronic health conditions, live in congregate living situations and have rotating caregiver staff, all of which put them at higher risk of contracting and having adverse outcomes from COVID-19.
Despite some media coverage of the higher probability of death for people with intellectual disabilities or autism (3 times that of the general public), NO ONE has made any changes to the list of priority groups. What people need to understand is we don’t have the time to push back their priority in this time of incredible need.
Lives will be lost if we do not act now.
This discrimination has been addressed by national organizations including the National Council on Disability, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and more, but the list has not changed.
Individuals living in group or nursing homes are mentioned in phase two of the plan, but there is no mention of people with developmental disabilities in this section, even though many of these individuals live in group settings. As of right now, people with disabilities will be eligible for the vaccine in phase three, along with the general population of children and young adults.
According to Scott Landes, an associate professor of sociology at Syracuse University, in an interview with NPR, “They’re [people with intellectual disabilities and autism] more likely — four times more likely, we’re showing — to actually contract COVID-19 than the general population,” he says. “And then if they do contract COVID-19, what we’re seeing is they’re about two times more likely to die from it.”
This concern is urgent due to the push for emergency approval by the Food and Drug Administration for the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna (both vaccines had a 90% success rate in clinical tests).
An additional concern about the vaccine was about the cost being covered by health insurance. Medicare regulations do not normally allow the program to cover the cost of vaccines that are approved by the emergency process, but since these fears arose, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have released temporary regulations to allow for this coverage.
If the disability community is not listed as a priority, people with disabilities, both adults and children, could be at high risk for a longer period than previously anticipated.
Do you have a disability? Are you a parent, caregiver, sibling, friend, loved one, or anyone with ties to the disability community? Are you as outraged as me?
I want to know what you think and what you plan to do! Share your plan of attack on our Facebook page here.