(This Guest Column is contributed by Kara Karlson, disability advocate and election law attorney.)
Arizona has administered over 2 million
COVID-19 vaccines. This is a huge
milestone and great news. Unfortunately,
despite promises from
Disproportionately Affects People with Disabilities
COVID-19 poses a disproportionate burden on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. People with disabilities may be more likely to be infected with COVID-19 because many require care from people outside the home, use mass transit, or work jobs without a telework option. We know that (0-17 years old) with intellectual and developmental disabilities (“I/DD”) are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than other children.
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are also much more likely to suffer adverse outcomes than people without disabilities. Evidence early in the pandemic indicated that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities were more likely to die from COVID-19. This early finding has been confirmed by research. Arizona recently prioritized vaccination for people with Down’s Syndrome, who are more likely to die from COVID-19. This is a step in the right direction, but it leaves many others in the disabled community unprotected.
The increased risk of death is most marked
to the State
In addition to being the right thing to do
for people with disabilities, it is also the right thing to do for Arizona’s
taxpayers. Care for people who are
hospitalized with COVID-19 is
A simple way to verify eligibility for
vaccination would be to allow people 16 years of age and older (or caregivers to
younger DDD members) use their Division of Developmental Disabilities (“DDD”)
insurance card to be vaccinated.
To be a DDD member, a person must be
diagnosed with at least one of the following
The state vaccine portal already requires
anyone who is registering for an appointment to provide their insurance
information. DDD Members have unique Member
IDs, and the group name “AZDDD” on their insurance card immediately identifies
them as a DDD Member. The state portal should
recognize DDD Members and allow them to make an appointment for a COVID-19
vaccination. Alternatively, the member
could show their insurance card at the vaccination site.
Call to Action
Under the current vaccination schedule,
thousands of Arizona’s most vulnerable people remain susceptible to a virus
that could kill them or add health complications to a population already coping
with significant, chronic health conditions.
The new age-based approach taken by the state in some ways exacerbates
this disparity. There is no scientifically-based
reason a healthy middle-aged person should qualify for vaccination before a
person with severe developmental disabilities.
Given the increased risk of hospitalization and death DDD Members face
as a result of their disabilities—and the fact that the infrastructure exists
to allow the state to reserve these vaccines for those who qualify—there is no
excuse to not prioritize DDD members for COVID-19 vaccines.
If you want to help make a difference for
people with I/DD, please join the