People With Disabilities And Their Caregivers Can Now Get COVID-19 Vaccine, But Frustration Remains

By Kathy Ritchie
Published: Thursday, March 25, 2021 - 1:47pm

Wednesday was the first day anyone over the age of 16 could sign up for the coronavirus vaccine. Many disability advocates welcomed the news. They had been calling on the state health department and Gov. Doug Ducey to prioritize people with disabilities in the rollout.

Michele Thorne is the executive director of DAMES, or Differently Abled Mothers Empowerment Society. She has two young children with autism. Until now, she was unable to sign up for the vaccine due to her age. She’s 39. Thorne is excited and relieved that she’s now eligible.

"But then there's this whole other group within my community for people who have children who are 16 and up. And now they are finding that their child who has a disability is now in competition for a vaccination slot with somebody who does not," she said.

Thorne and others in the disability community say that people with disabilities were never made priority in the vaccine rollout to begin with. 

"Our voice was never heard of here. And it's, it's unconscionable to me that in 2021, this community, which is the largest minority group in Arizona, is being ignored," Thorne said. 

Thorne says there was no one on the Vaccine and Antiviral Prioritization Advisory Committee from the disability community. That group was responsible for the rollout plan. Meanwhile, people with intellectual or developmental disabilities are more likely to suffer adverse outcomes when infected with COVID-19. For instance, people with Down syndrome are 10 times more likely to die from the virus.

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