Feds Ramping Up Vaccine Access For People With Disabilities
The Biden administration is putting big bucks behind an effort to get more people with disabilities vaccinated against COVID-19.
As eligibility opens up to everyone nationwide, federal officials are acknowledging that challenges remain in reaching many people with disabilities who face transportation barriers, difficulty with scheduling appointments or who might struggle to manage a visit to a mass vaccine site, among other issues.
Now the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Administration for Community Living will provide nearly $100 million to improve access for people with disabilities and older adults.
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Most of the funds — almost $93 million — will go to aging and disability networks in every state and territory including centers for independent living, university centers of excellence in developmental disabilities, protection and advocacy systems and state councils on developmental disabilities.
The money will provide assistance with scheduling vaccine appointments, transportation to vaccine sites, pay for the direct support services needed for such appointments and help connect people to in-home vaccine options, among other things, federal health officials said.
“The Biden administration is committed to expanding access to vaccines, with a unique focus on ensuring those hit hardest by COVID-19 and at highest risk for severe illness or death get vaccinated,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra. “Through this unique, exciting new partnership between ACL and CDC, HHS will work alongside advocates to help older adults and people with disabilities get the services and assistance they need in order to get vaccinated and have the security of knowing they are protected from COVID-19.”
Research shows that people with developmental disabilities face a much higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than others. With this in mind, advocates have pressed to secure priority access to vaccines for this population. Nonetheless, access for people with developmental disabilities has remained uneven, largely dependent on which state or locality an individual lives in and whether or not they reside in a congregate setting like an institution or group home.
To date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that over 109 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Eligibility for the shots has been limited, but President Joe Biden now says that the vaccines should be open to everyone 18 and older nationwide by April 19.