Groups Work to Get Vaccines to Colorado’s Disabled, Homeless
Thursday, April 1, 2021
DENVER -- Colorado's disability community and supporters are applauding Gov. Jared Polis' move to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines for people with Down Syndrome, people who have challenges wearing masks and people who receive direct in-home care.
Now advocates are doubling down on efforts to reach people who face transportation and housing challenges.
Christiano Sosa, executive director for Arc of Colorado, said the Johnson and Johnson vaccine may be the best match for home or street-level delivery because it's a single shot, and does not require intensive cooling conditions.
"The Johnson & Johnson vaccine may work better for those experiencing homelessness and people who are not able to get to clinics," Sosa suggested.
People with disabilities currently are over-represented in the state's homeless population, and Sosa explained many are not equipped to receive texts or emails, and can't rely on public transportation to make it to their second Pfizer or Moderna appointments on time.
Sosa emphasized the community is banding together to meet the challenge, and has so far delivered more than 4,000 vaccines to disabled residents.
Joelle Brouner, executive director of the Colorado Developmental Disabilities Council, said getting vaccines to all people with disabilities is important because many are at greater risk of serious illness or death.
Many rely on workers, even those hesitant to get vaccinated themselves, for essential personal care.
"And when you have people coming in and out of your homes to provide essential help to you, you're at higher risk of not only getting the infection but of spreading the infection to the broader community," Brouner explained.
Even before the pandemic, 60% of people with disabilities reported experiencing mental-health challenges.
Public health measures shut down in-person programs, and many lacked access to technology that would have allowed them to join virtual sessions.
As more vaccines are distributed, Sosa added he's hopeful that people will be able to get back into the community.
"People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are often isolated anyway, before COVID, and COVID has only compounded that isolation," Sosa observed.
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