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  • Writer's pictureMeg O'Connell

The Vaccine Roll Out, What a Long Strange Trip its Been.

Updated: Feb 20, 2021

Image of the year 2021 with the zero that looks like the globe wearing a mask and the number 1 is represented by a syringe
The Year of the Vaccine

Who knew the 1977 classic from the Grateful Dead would be the perfect description for 2020, likely most of 2021, and perhaps even some of 2022.

2020 was the year of the pandemic, the lockdown, remote work, remote school, and a new appreciation for frontline workers, especially healthcare workers, and grocery & delivery employees. They kept the world moving forward in a time of great disruption and uncertainty. Again, I say, Thank You!

2021 is the year of the vaccine and the variants. The race is on to get as many people vaccinated as possible before new and stronger variants of the virus become the new normal and we must create boosters or even new vaccines.

Operation "warp speed" quickly got us a vaccine at a record pace. But distribution has been anything but smooth. The lines are endless, seniors are sleeping in their cars, venues are disorganized, vaccines are spoiling, and like something out of the Hunger Games, we now even have vaccine hunters.

Yes, it is a monumental task, and while we are seeing progress there is widespread concern about vaccine prioritization. Most notably the fact that people with disabilities are not being deemed high risk enough to be some of the first in line to receive the vaccine. In most cases people with disabilities will receive the vaccine alongside the "general population".

Vaccinations began with our most vulnerable population the elderly, then moved to medical personal, front-line workers etc. Yet, still in the majority of states there is no plan in place for vaccinating people under 65 with disabilities or underlying health conditions. This means people with heart conditions, respiratory issues, developmental disabilities, and more are at significant risk of severe illness or death from the virus.

How is it that people with disabilities are not some of the first in line to receive the vaccine? Alice Wong, a disability activist who lives in California said, "high risk, is high risk." Meaning if our approach is to vaccinate high risk populations first this must include people with disabilities.

Last week, the state of California finally announced a plan to begin vaccinating those with disabilities on March 15th. While this is progress, it may be too little, too late for some. Why did it take 3 months and many disability activists to make California (the home of the disability rights movement). focus on vaccinating people with disabilities? And what about other states, what is the plan across the country? For example, I live in Florida and currently there is no plan to prioritize vaccinating the disabled.

The lack of prioritization for the most vulnerable (including people with disabilities) has our community asking one simple question to our country and our leaders: When will people with disabilities become a priority for the Covid-19 vaccine?


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