Capitol Correspondence - 03.09.21

CDC Encourages States to Expand COVID-19 Prioritization to People with Disabilities, Leading Advocates to Call for Stronger Action

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As reported by The Washington Post:

“With the nationwide demand for coronavirus shots continuing to far outstrip supply, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday states should consider prioritizing people with disabilities or cognitive decline as officials broaden access to vaccines. [ANCOR note: for more context on overall vaccine availability, read this article on expected increases in supply.]

The guidance is part of the agency’s latest recommendations for administering doses now that three vaccines are authorized and recommended for use to combat covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Any of the three can be used during these initial phases when supply is sharply limited, officials say.


Experts noted that the latest guidance reflects more attention to the real-world challenges that have surfaced throughout the country as many people who are prioritized for the shots are unable to make appointments online. States and localities have adopted widely differing approaches, resulting in a patchwork of guidelines governing who should get early access to the vaccines as more transmissible and possibly more dangerous variants circulate in this country. State officials announce changes to those priorities frequently, causing further confusion.


‘There is growing concern about reaching those who may face unique barriers to access — people who are disabled, those in congregate settings outside of long-term care facilities, and those who have technological or geographic barriers,’ said Jennifer Kates, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has been tracking how states have prioritized groups for vaccination. […]

The latest CDC guidance urges states to consider the ‘unique needs’ of people with disabilities or cognitive decline and their caretakers, and “those with limited access to technology,” as appointments open to new groups. After health-care workers and nursing home staff and residents, the CDC vaccine advisory panel has recommended the next priority groups include adults 65 and older, essential workers, and those 16 to 64 with medical conditions that put them at high risk for severe cases of covid-19. Many states are already vaccinating those 65 and older. Fewer states have begun inoculating those with high-risk conditions.

Advocates for people with disabilities say the updated guidance is a step in the right direction but does not go far enough.

‘It doesn’t resolve the overall uncertainty and lack of clarity for people with disabilities and their families,’ said Peter V. Berns, chief executive officer for the Arc of the United States, which advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

Related: Disability Scoop covers coalition letter in which ANCOR participated on vaccination prioritization.