Vaccine Priority Exclusion

People with disabilities have been excluded from the high-risk groups for prioritization in the vaccine timeline, despite clear evidence that they are dying at a rate far higher than almost all others and that those with Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities are at significantly greater risk of death.

According to a November white paper by FAIR Health (“Risk Factors for COVID-19 Mortality Among Privately Insured Patients”), of all those infected with COVID-19, the death rate is 0.59%. However, the death rate for those with Developmental Disabilities (e.g., disabilities of speech and language, learning disabilities, central auditory processing disorders) is 3.06%. Additionally, those with Intellectual Disabilities (e.g., Down syndrome and other chromosomal anomalies; congenital malformations, such as certain disorders that cause microcephaly) are dying at a rate of 2.75%. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that those with Down syndrome over 40 years of age, even after correcting for other factors such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and living in a group home, had a death rate of nearly 51%, comparable only to those aged 80 and over in the general population. For those under 40, their rate of death was 7%, still far greater than the general population. After this study was published, the United Kingdom immediately moved to have this vulnerable population added to the group receiving the vaccine in the very early stages. The CDC has not and the States are left to determine their own timeline using the CDC categories that have neglected to include this group of people.

It is unconscionable that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are dying at some of the highest rates and are not being included in the prioritization timeline. When coupled with the potential of care rationing that could result in asking doctors to weigh the value of one life over another, this is a nightmare scenario for people with disabilities.

The risk of death from COVID-19 for the most vulnerable people in our community must be considered in decisions about vaccine prioritization. Disability Network Lakeshore implores you to contact your representative about this matter. Ask them to remember our citizens with disabilities in the distribution timeline. Far too often in our history, we have neglected to equally value the humanity of people with disabilities. This is the time to ensure that the value of every human life is recognized and protected, regardless of ability, by explicitly including our most vulnerable community members in the high-risk category in the vaccination timeline.

Contact your representatives (contact as many that apply)
Gary Peters (U.S. Senate)
Debbie Stabenow (U.S. Senate)
Bill Huizenga (U.S. House of Representatives, Michigan 2nd District including Ottawa County)
Fred Upton (U.S. House of Representatives, Michigan 6th District including Allegan County)
Rover Victory (MI Senate, 30th State Senate District including Ottawa County)
Aric Nesbitt (MI Senate, 26th State Senate District including Allegan County)
Jim Lilly (MI House of Representatives, 89th District including Olive, Park, Port Sheldon, Robinson, and Grand Haven townships)
Bradley Slagh (MI House of Representatives, 90th District including Ottawa County portion of City of Holland, Cities of Hudsonville and Zeeland, Blendon, Holland, Jamestown, and Zeeland townships)
Mary Whiteford (MI House of Representatives, 80th District including most of Allegan County and the southern portion of City of Holland)

FAIR Health Article
Health Care Article
ScienceMag Article

—Amanda Rhines

Disability Network Lakeshore

Dec. 21, 2020