Calls to make some of the most vulnerable vaccine priorities
LONDON, ONT. -- They are among the most vulnerable in the COVID-19 pandemic but caregivers and advocates say it seems those with physical disabilities and learning challenges have often been an afterthought.
The latest area of concern centers on vaccine delivery. Michelle Palmer is Executive Director of Community Living London, "People with disabilities, depending on the disability, could be at a much higher risk of contracting COVID.”
She says as the roll-out of vaccines continues in Ontario, the unique needs and challenges of those vulnerable populations are still not being given a high enough priority. “You've got the people living at home, whose lives have become extremely isolated. They don't have the cognitive ability to understand the importance of wearing your mask, wearing it properly, social distancing, washing your hands."
Advocates say not making these vulnerable groups a priority for vaccines only increases the risk, with research out of the U.S. and published in Disabilities and Health Journal showing that people with disabilities are two times more likely to die of COVID-19.
London-Fanshawe NDP MPP Teresa Armstrong says deaths in Ontario among those with disabilities hasn't been tracked, information that might have impacted vaccine delivery.
“It would facilitate and impact what, maybe, a Phase-2 would have looked like if the government was collecting that data."
Barbara Gracey is a Direct Support Professional with Community Living London. She says say many clients, like most others, have jobs and want social lives. Helping that happen safely is important for them, their families and those they come in contact with, including social workers. The re-start of programs at the agency was just an example of how eager they are to get out of their homes, "They were so thrilled to be coming back here again and I think it was great for their families, too. The folks that are coming in now are all living at home with family."
There are indications that people living in group homes will be prioritized for the next round of vaccinations but advocates say the next phase of the roll-out shouldn't stop there.