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Groups Seek COVID Vaccine Priority for Arizonans with Disabilities

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Almost 2 million Arizonans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but advocates for people with disabilities say they have, so far, been left out of the program. (weya/Adobe Stock)
Almost 2 million Arizonans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but advocates for people with disabilities say they have, so far, been left out of the program. (weya/Adobe Stock)

 By Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ - Producer, Contact
March 5, 2021

PHOENIX, Ariz. - A coalition is calling on Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona's Department of Health Services to prioritize access to the COVID-19 vaccine for people living with disabilities.

The groups want state officials to amend the current vaccination plan to include people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, with an emphasis on reaching those who are homebound.

Jon Meyers, executive director of The Arc of Arizona, said the state's current plan doesn't include some people who are among the most susceptible to the novel coronavirus.

"For too long, the state has ignored the vulnerabilities of people with disabilities," said Meyers. "The time has come for ADHS and the governor's office to remedy this situation. The time has come for the disability community to be recognized, respected and protected."

The coalition, led by the Arizona Center for Disability Law, has sent a letter to the governor asking him to immediately make Arizonans with disabilities eligible to be vaccinated. As of yesterday, the governor had not responded to their request.

At a news conference, members of several advocacy groups discussed the problems some people experience in getting vaccinated.

Louise Bowden, executive director of the Downs Syndrome Network of Arizona and the mother of a 23-year-old with Down Syndrome, said the state needs a plan to seek out people like her son.

"Compared to the general population, people with Down Syndrome are four times more likely to die from COVID," said Bowden. "Many states are already following the CDC recommendations. Unfortunately, Arizona is not one of them."

Currently, state-sponsored vaccination stations are in public venues, like stadiums, which can only be accessed by car.

The coalition wants the state to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and improve outreach to people whose conditions make it harder for them to get the COVID vaccine.

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