Statement Regarding State Policy on Vaccination of People with High-Risk Conditions
We are very happy to see that the State of California shared a plan on February 12 to vaccinate people with disabilities/medical conditions and higher-weight people who are at high risk for COVID starting March 15. It is good to see this consideration of our communities.
However, we have grave concerns about the policy as it stands, and we urge immediate changes.
The list of conditions in the provider bulletin is far too narrow. Data shows that people with a much broader set of disabilities are at high risk. The full CDC list should be the starting point. Rather than being narrowed, that list should be included in full and expanded to also include all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, all people who are immunocompromised, and people with other respiratory conditions. The lack of vaccine supply is not a compelling reason to narrow the list, as people over 65 were made eligible long before there was enough vaccine to vaccinate them all.
Disability equity must also include racial equity. Asthma, higher weight, and/or diabetes, for example, are more common in African-American and Latinx communities. While someone with asthma may not be at the greatest risk of death from COVID, we know that certain communities of color are more likely to get COVID and die of COVID. Considering these facts, conditions more common among people of color must be fully covered.
This policy relies on the judgment of individual health providers, which creates huge problems. Low-income disabled people, people of color, and unhoused people are much less likely to have a regular doctor or health provider who they trust and can go to easily. People with multiple marginalized identities are more likely to deal with medical bias, where their doctor does not believe them or does not address their concerns in a fair and timely manner.
In addition, March 15 is much too late. Other California state decisions about vaccination priority have taken effect immediately. By waiting a month from the time the policy was announced to even start vaccination, countless people will get sick and die. This is unnecessary and unacceptable. We must do better.
A policy that leaves out the most marginalized is not equitable. Changes must be made immediately. We call on the state to create a system that has a broad set of categories, based on disability, medical condition, and higher weight that includes anyone who receives home and community-based services, either paid or unpaid. The state should allow people to self-attest and go to any mass vaccination site, rather than creating barriers.
We are open for discussion through Jessica Lehman, Senior and Disability Action, at Jessica@sdaction.org or (510) 427-7535.
UCSA Disability Ad Hoc Committee