People with disabilities bumped down on North Carolina’s rollout plan for vaccine

Coronavirus

Changes to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan are concerning advocates and families of disabled people who may have to wait longer to get the shot.

The Department of Health and Human Services bumped down people with intellectual and developmental disabilities from Group 2 to Group 4.

Jeanne Wilkinson who lives in Winston-Salem wants to know when it will be her daughter’s turn.

“I cannot get a shot in her arm. I cannot get a shot in her arm because she is 25 years old,” said Wilkinson.

Her daughter lives with Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. She also suffers from a weak immune system that affects her upper respiratory system.

“We got notified by her doctor that with Dravet and the particular manifestation of it that Alex was at a high risk for a poor outcome,” said Wilkinson.

Alex and thousands of others with disabilities were re-prioritized when North Carolina updates its rollout plan for the vaccine.

“If we are going to identify a needy population for life-saving measures such as a vaccination, this one meets all the criteria,” said John Nash.

Nash is the executive director at The Arc of North Carolina. The group advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

Nash says the disabled community often has complicated medical histories and their downgraded priority status means vaccinations are still months away.

“The I/DD population is marginalized to begin with on so many other fronts and what this tells us is that people like Alex are an afterthought,” said Wilkinson.

Advocates say pandemic or not, the health outcomes for people with disabilities are already shaky.

Wilkinson says she will fight tooth and nail to get her daughter access to the resources and care she deserves.

“Nobody is advocating for them, nobody is considering them, and they are at high risk and they are forgotten and if it weren’t for us Alex would fall into that category and I’m saying not on my watch, not on my watch. We should all be outraged,” said Wilkinson.

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