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Coronavirus Pandemic

Confusion runs amuck for disabled community around California’s COVID vaccine prioritization policy

Doctor giving Covid vaccine to senior woman

California’s disability community under the age of 65 still don’t have concrete answers as to when they will receive their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Kathleen Kramer lives in Ventura County, where people 75 years of age and over can get the vaccine. Kramer said she received permission for her brother, who is 74 and a half years old, to get the vaccine because he has a severe developmental disability. She said when they arrived at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, where vaccinations were being administered, her brother was told he didn’t qualify.

“He is autistic and I am his conservatorship. And, they said, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t do him. He’s not 75,’ and I thought it was completely unfair. I wasn’t trying to take advantage of it,” Kramer said.

Other states, including Ohio, New York, New Mexico and Oregon, are offering the vaccine to people with disabilities, even if they are under 65.

“The disability community is never brought up at all. It is definitely is hard for me. I want to be protected, but I’m not getting the answers I should be getting from the government,” said Carlos Mitchell, a 45-year-old disabled man from Anaheim.

Andrew Imparato, Executive Director of Disability Rights California and a member of the state’s community vaccine advisory committee, said, “We’ve asked them to prioritize people under 65 as soon as possible because people are dying everyday who don’t have access to the vaccine.”

He said, “California was the birthplace of the disability rights movement. We’ve got a progressive governor, we’re one of the wealthiest states in the country,” adding, “Why in the world are we lagging behind all these other states?”

Governor Gavin Newsom is not pleased with the state’s lack of progress for its disabled residents and promised to get answers for them.

“We’ve got to take care of the most vulnerable and people in the developmentally disabled community with all the unique challenges and opportunities that present them in their lives, these vaccines need to be prioritized, and I’m committing to do that.
I just fear that whatever we do will not be enough until the supply is adequate,” said Newsom.

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