Capitol Correspondence - 01.18.22

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky Apologizes for Comments Hurtful to Disability Community

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On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky met with disability advocates, including those from The Arc of the United States, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the American Association of People with Disabilities, and other organizations to apologize for previous comments she made regarding the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine against serious illness from COVID-19 and the impact of the Omicron variant.

In an appearance on Good Morning America, Director Walensky stated that “[t]he overwhelming number of deaths, over 75%, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities” and that the CDC is “really encouraged by these results.” ANCOR joined with nearly 150 disability advocacy groups in a letter to call out Director Walensky’s words as harmful given that people with four or more comorbidities are often people with disabilities. The letter also stated that the “public health response to COVID-19 has treated people with disabilities as disposable.”

On Friday, Director Walensky acknowledged that her words were “hurtful, yet unintentional.” The advocacy groups noted that this apology was critical in continuing to work together on policy changes, but are also calling for a public apology.