‘It is devastating’ disabled folks not prioritized in vaccine rollout, advocates say

TORONTO – Disabled people outside of the community are not prioritized in Canada vaccine rollout, and proponents say this is just another way not to protect their community.

“People with disabilities are only an afterthought when we think of this pandemic in any way. And vaccines are no different, ”said Jewelles Smith, government relations coordinator for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. “It’s unsettling.”

Smith, who prefers the term “disabled woman” to refer to himself, said governments are only focusing on those in the community or on older Canadians who may be disabled.

In BC, for example, people with intellectual disabilities in group homes were among the first to be vaccinated.

“But there is [no] Considerate those of us who live in the community, those of us who need personal carers or companions, or other family members to provide care, ”Smith, who has severe anaphylaxis, told CTVNews.ca. “There doesn’t seem to be a clear plan.”

She said disabled people like her friend who uses a wheelchair are at higher risk due to their increased interaction.

“Many of us live in conditions that pose a higher risk of COVID or COVID [are] put us at risk because of the number of people we meet, ”she said, noting that her friend, who uses a wheelchair, doesn’t even leave the house.

From the companion helping her to get ready to the bus driver strapping her down to the attendant at the grocery store – every interaction involves a risk. Getting the vaccine first would mean not relying on others to be sure.

Regarding the introduction to the province, Smith said disabled people in general are not specifically included in the first wave of vaccinations. For example, in Ontario, adults with developmental disabilities are part of the second tier of vaccination, which may not come before March at the earliest.

“I don’t know when I can go public again,” said Smith.

US data from last year found that people with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder died more often than other people from COVID-19 in two states. Other studies found that disabled people in the United States and the United Kingdom were two to three times more likely to test positive and die of COVID-19. However, when it comes to Canada, there are few studies looking specifically at COVID-19 and its effects on people with disabilities.

And that lack of disaggregated data was criticized by a Winnipeg-based disability activist.

Lack of data kills: researchers

“This statistical deficiency paves the way for a vaccination rollout that will leave many vulnerable people behind,” said disabled activist and graduate researcher Megan Linton in an article she co-wrote for the left-wing publication Canadian Dimension.

“And since we don’t have this data, it will lead to a lack of protection specifically for disabled people,” Linton told CTVNews.ca on Monday in a phone interview, whose research interests include the overlap of institutions and disabilities.

She said activists in Canada, the US, the UK and Australia have been calling for priority access for disabled people for months. And Linton said the factors that determine vaccine prioritization shouldn’t just be a person’s age or whether people live in common areas.

“Disabled people have been forgotten time and again throughout the pandemic, so it’s not surprising we were forgotten when the vaccine was launched,” Linton said.

In her post, along with disabled writer Allen Mankewich, she outlined a number of other issues facing the disabled community, including the Quebec and Ontario clinical triage protocol, which proponents believe will serve, or proposed amendments to the Health Care Consent Act which they do not represent. t Giving disabled people full control over their own care.

“We have to die. Our lives have not been saved for almost a year and I think it’s exhausting,” said Linton, who described the situation in her community as “devastating.”

Linton also noted in her post that the provincial disability allowance she calculated has not increased. She bills $ 1,350 in Ontario, $ 1,093 in Manitoba, and $ 1,182 in BC, even though the Canada Emergency Response Benefit is set at $ 2,000. A fact that other activists previously shouted.

Sarah Jama, a disability attorney with cerebral palsy, poses for a portrait at her home in Hamilton, Ontario on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS / Peter Power

Sarah Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, repeated Linton. She said she wasn’t surprised at the lack of prioritization for disabled people.

“People with disabilities are shown by law that they are not valued by all levels of government in Canada and that they had to and will die as a result of this pandemic,” said Jama, who also prefers the term “disabled person”. Said CTVNews.ca on Twitter.

But all of these problems, including early access to vaccine, are exacerbated significantly for disabled people.

“I’ve been broken over and over again by the decisions that disabled people are not seen as worth saving, vaccinating, or treating,” Linton said. She pointed out that tackling the heightened vulnerability of groups such as disabled, black or indigenous groups should be a given and help COVID-19 cases overall.

When asked if the federal and provincial governments were taking action, Smith said she was naturally optimistic but “incredibly frustrated with all the answers”.

She recalls 2019 and hopes her community will finally be heard when the government passes the Canada Accessibility Act, which would give the government more power to create new accessibility regulations.

“There was a moment in the church when we thought, ‘They are actually thinking of us. ‘And then that [the pandemic] happens. And from day one there were new barriers, ”said Smith.

“The only thing we were hoping for was the vaccine, and to hear that we were not on the plan was literally unsettling.”

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