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Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Vaccines and People with Disabilities

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. Those challenges get far more intense during disasters.  And coronavirus is proving to be the biggest disaster of all. 

 A. Blythe Ryerson and colleagues at MMWR:

COVID-19 vaccination coverage was lower among U.S. adults with a disability than among those without a disability, even though adults with a disability reported less hesitancy to getting vaccinated. Unvaccinated adults with disabilities were more likely than were those without a disability to report thinking that the vaccine is important protection, indicating that there might be potential for increasing vaccination coverage in this group. However, adults with a disability anticipated or experienced more difficulty obtaining a COVID-19 vaccination than did those without a disability. Reducing barriers to scheduling and making vaccination sites more accessible might improve vaccination rates among persons with disabilities (7).

Much work has been done to adapt COVID-19 health messages into more accessible formats††; however, more effort is necessary to increase health equity for persons with disabilities. A recent exploratory analysis of official state and territorial COVID-19 vaccination registration websites found substantial variability and suboptimal compliance with basic accessibility recommendations (8). Information is available for developers of online health information resources and scheduling systems to make web content more accessible.§§ Further, online scheduling systems can provide call lines for persons who need assistance making an appointment or requesting assistance getting to a vaccination site. CDC recently provided funding to the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to create a national Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL) to assist persons with disabilities obtain a COVID-19 vaccination.¶¶

Even if vaccination locations are identified and appointments are secured, vaccination sites might vary in their accessibility options. All vaccination sites are required to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act; however, regulations do not require that sites have American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters or providers trained to work with persons with intellectual or other developmental disabilities (9). Transportation to a vaccination site might be particularly challenging for persons with a disability who depend on another person to take them or who need accessible vehicles or public transportation. To help overcome some of these challenges, CDC recently provided funding to ACL to provide grants to aging and disability networks in every U.S. state and territory to expand access to COVID-19 vaccination among older adults and persons with disabilities.*** These grants aid with scheduling vaccination appointments, providing direct support services needed to attend appointments, providing transportation to vaccination sites, and connecting persons who cannot leave their homes independently to in-home vaccination options.