People With IDD, DSPs May Qualify For COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s endorsement of a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for certain Americans means many people with developmental disabilities are now eligible for a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
After significant wrangling, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said last week that her agency would recommend that a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine should be given to people ages 65 and older, residents of long-term care settings like institutions and people ages 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions.
In addition, the CDC said that people ages 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions as well as those “at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting” may receive a booster “based on their individual benefits and risks.”
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The third dose is to be given at least six months after the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
The recommendation references a CDC list of underlying medical conditions that are associated with a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, one of which is Down syndrome. In addition, the document notes that “people with disabilities are more likely than those without disabilities to have chronic health conditions, live in congregate setting, and face more barriers to healthcare. Studies have shown that some people with certain disabilities are more likely to get COVID-19 and have worse outcomes.”
Multiple studies have found that people with developmental disabilities face a heightened risk of death and hospitalization from COVID-19.
“Based on the evidence we have produced and I have read to date, I think all adults with IDD … , no matter type of residential setting, should have access to a booster if they so choose due to the increased risk of more severe COVID-19 outcomes,” said Scott Landes, an associate professor of sociology at Syracuse University who has led a number of studies looking at the risk of COVID-19 among individuals in this population.
Even before the federal action, at least one state — Maryland — had already authorized booster shots for individuals age 65 and older living in group homes and other congregate settings.
Given the broad latitude that the CDC provided, people with developmental disabilities likely won’t have a problem qualifying, said Sean Luechtefeld with the American Network of Community Options and Resources, or ANCOR, which represents disability service providers across the nation.
“We believe all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities 18 or older will be permitted to receive a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine because the CDC guidelines empower people to assess their own risk,” he said.
The CDC also did not explicitly specify what types of workers are eligible, but given the occupational risk faced by direct support professionals assisting people with disabilities, Luechtefeld said his group expects that DSPs will be eligible for boosters.
The booster shot plan currently only applies to the Pfizer vaccine since federal health officials have not made any decisions yet about whether additional doses of the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines are warranted.