As you may have learned, the first round of Coronavirus vaccines have arrived and are being distributed. According to the COVID-19 State Vaccine Plan, healthcare workers and nursing homes are a priority for vaccine distribution.
SKIL and other advocacy groups for people with disabilities are very concerned about alleged institutional bias against people with disabilities regarding vaccine priority distribution. I participated in a web conference Monday morning, along with The Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas, Prairie Independent Living Resource Center, Independent Connection, Topeka Independent Living Center and Kansas ADAPT regarding this matter. I was also interviewed on KOAM-TV 7 News, which aired a video story about the issue on several of its broadcasts.
People in group home settings and who have in-home care should have been included with other frontline workers in Phase 1A of the State Vaccine Plan, because they are all people who are extremely at risk. They, and their attendants, are at equally high risk as those listed in Phase 1A of the Plan.
Phase1 for Kansas Distribution (https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1533/COVID-19-Vaccination-Plan-for-Kansas-Version12-1142020?bidId=) includes the following:
“Phase 1 of the phased approach for the Kansas COVID-19 Vaccine Plan will include Phase 1A and Phase 1B. While there are many unknown variables about the recommendations for use of initial vaccine in Phase 1, it is likely that vaccine will be available as follows:
Phase 1A: • Healthcare personnel paid and unpaid, who are likely to be exposed to or treat people with COVID-19 or infectious materials and are unable to work from home.
Phase 1B: • People at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including those with underlying medical conditions such as cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart conditions, obesity, sickle cell disease, smokers, or those with a history of smoking, and type 2 diabetes • People 65 years of age and older • Other essential workers • Long-term care residents”
Personal care workers are very essential workers, and the people who receive those services clearly have pre-existing conditions, so the need to have the vaccine available to them is vitally important. We are just asking for equality. “Long-term care” includes the care of those on home and community based services (HCBS), not only nursing homes and hospital patients.
People who depend on attendants to be able to do their daily living needs should have the same rights as those who have those same needs but get their services in a nursing facility or hospital. The workers who put themselves on the front lines to meet the needs of people with disabilities should have access to the vaccine just as the workers in the nursing homes and hospitals do.
SKIL’s Systems Advocacy Manager Lou Ann Kibbee has written a letter to Kansas Governor Laura Kelly and copied Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) Secretary Dr. Lee Norman and other state officials about our deep concern over this alleged terrible institutional bias. To date, we are waiting to hear back from them regarding our concerns. Please keep checking our website to stay current on this vital issue that affects so many people with disabilities.
I will keep fighting for you!