A Statement from the Exceptional Lives team
Exceptional Lives calls on public health officials to include people with disabilities among the highest-priority groups to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Widespread vaccination is one of the most powerful tools we have to fight this global pandemic, and those who have been hit hardest by COVID should be the first to have access.
People with certain disabilities or chronic medical conditions have a higher rate of infection, and recent studies show that people with disabilities are three times more likely to die of COVID than the general population.
While “people with disabilities,” covers a wide range of people, we recognize that people with disabilities are more likely to live in congregate care settings, come into close contact with personal caregivers, or experience physical, intellectual, and discrimination-related barriers to both prevention and care.
In addition, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are more likely to have another condition that puts them at greater risk for poor outcomes from COVID.
For this reason, many people with disabilities face challenges above and beyond the general population in:
Finding accessible information about how to prevent infection
Maintaining social distancing
Accessing COVID tests
Getting medical care if they become infected
Priority access to vaccines would reduce infection and death rates and would allow people with disabilities to:
Return more quickly to in-person learning and employment
Access critical therapies and medical care in-person
Reconnect with family members and friends and reduce social isolation
For the family members and caregivers who are caring full-time for children or siblings with disabilities, the vaccine will provide an opportunity for much-needed outside support.
For all these reasons, prioritizing people with disabilities for vaccine access is the right thing to do for people with disabilities, for those who love them, and for our communities.