The Covid-19 vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel for most of us, especially in the United States. The demand for the vaccines is high, unsurprisingly. Thus, a priority list is crucial for vaccine rollout. The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) initially offered vaccines to disabled and chronically ill people, aged 16 to 64 years, with underlying medical conditions (which increase the risk of serious, life-threatening complications from COVID-19) in Phase 1c.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced that the state’s vaccine allocation plan will be based on age alone, deprioritizing essential workers in transportation, manufacturing and industrial services, as well as younger high-risk people. Of course, the elderly need the vaccines more urgently than the younger folks. However, this leaves out many other high-risk populations. Disabled people are a prioritized group in most current vaccine distributions, but with this new rule in place, they have been pushed to the back of that line, despite being three times more likely to have chronic conditions (in turn, putting them at a higher mortality rate due to Covid-19).
The new rule for prioritization of inoculation is much more detrimental than what meets the eye. In fact, only less than a third of the disabled are aged above 65. This clearly indicates that at least two in three disabled are forced to take the backseat in receiving the vaccines. As a result, the new rule has shattered the hopes of many disabled communities and made them feel invisible.
In a Los Angeles Times Op-Ed, Tim Jin wrote, “Many people with disabilities are dealing with comorbidities of health that make us more vulnerable if we get the virus, while routine contact with multiple caregivers and other people who support us increases our risk of being exposed to COVID-19 … As a person with cerebral palsy who lives on my own with support, I am more at risk because I rely on my staff to help me. I am exposed to multiple support people who come and go each day.” This shines a light on how dire the risks are when inoculation is not prioritized appropriately. A disabled young person could potentially be more prone to the Covid-19 virus than another abled elder.
The anti-discrimination campaign #NoBodyIsDisposable has collected hundreds of stories of disabled people since March, while disabled communities waited for a vaccine. It is especially crucial that disabled people should get the vaccinations based on their risk of getting infected with Covid-19 and severity of their disability. If prioritized according to the aforementioned factors, disabled people would be pushed up the queue for vaccination. As such, age cannot be the sole factor to determine the time for one to be qualified for a vaccine.
While the demands for inoculation are high, it is important to prioritize the needs of our people correctly.