Last Monday, people across the state were preparing to look at the light at the end of the tunnel. Last Monday was the day the Lamont government was due to announce that residents with pre-existing conditions and comorbidities would be eligible to register for a COVID vaccination.
And frontline workers who have mastered this plague with courage, care and hope would finally be able to break the fetters the virus had placed on them and taste a bit of life with less fear.
Connecticut was a forerunner to national efficiency in delivering the vaccine to its residents. We have all benefited so far from our collective efforts to limit the transmission of the disease. Liberals and Conservatives, Democrats and Republicans – each of us wore our masks and kept our distance. We took the reasonable precautions encouraged by the doctors and scientists and the vast majority of us thankfully got confused.
If the books are written about the life we’ve led for the past 15 months, Connecticut will likely stand out as a state that got it right.
And in the end, it could turn out that Governor Ned Lamont got it right last Monday too. But man, it was a punch in the stomach for those patiently and anxiously waiting for their chances to break free from fear.
Shortly after the governor made his decision to adopt an age-based vaccination approach, the first legal claim was filed. And that interests me.
The lawsuit was filed with the Department of Health and Human Services by a nonprofit called Disability Rights Connecticut. The organization has requested that the Connecticut Department of Civil Rights call for a revision of its vaccination policy to give priority to people with underlying diseases, regardless of age, who are at increased risk of infection.
The CDC has recommended that people with conditions that put them at greater risk and key workers receive the vaccine before middle-aged people. The Lamont government countered the fact that 95 percent of deaths from COVID occurred in those over the age of 55.
One of the concerns of the nonprofit is that the new policy is not entirely age dependent, as it makes exceptions to prioritizing teachers and childcare workers. If the age-based process is indeed the way to go, then no job exemptions would be required.
The complaint alleges that the policy should also include exemptions for “qualified persons with disabilities” in order to comply with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
According to the ADA, it is illegal for the state to “use eligibility criteria that tend to weed out people with disabilities” or “fail to make reasonable changes to policies and practices necessary to avoid discrimination”.
Based on my review of the claim and the law, I doubt the lawsuit will be successful. According to its own provisions, the vaccination guideline currently limits the eligibility to people over 55 years of age who otherwise do not belong to an exceptional group. Persons with disabilities who are not otherwise eligible under the policy are not obliged to obtain eligibility solely on the basis of their disability.
Although I think the policy is tough and its implementation has been mishandled, I am not sure that legal action against it will be successful.
Eric Brown, who writes a weekly column, is an attorney with offices in Connecticut. He can be reached at 888-579-4222 or online at thelaborlawyer.com.
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