‘No response’ from state officials on when disabled community will be vaccinated

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SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (ABC4 News) – It’s been five weeks, and still no response from state officials addressing concerns in a letter sent back on December 8th from the Disability Law Center, Utah Developmental Disabilities Council, the Utah State University Center for Persons with Disabilities, and other organizations.

It was on behalf of Utah’s disabled community.

“Frankly, we heard concerns from the community,” said Nate Crippes, a staff attorney at the Disability Law Center in Salt Lake City.

It was to plead the case of why individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities should be considered for vaccination in the state’s next rollout phase.

The letter reads in part: “As three agencies that represent the interests of Utahns with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (ID/DD), we write to you today, along with our other organizational signatories, to urge you to protect some of our State’s most vulnerable with the COVID-19 vaccine. While we greatly appreciate the current vaccination plan including long-term care (LTC) residents and those in congregate living facilities in phase 1b of the rollout, we believe it is essential to include individuals with ID/DD living in the community in this phase of the vaccination plan.”

“We decided to reach out to state officials, and just let them know that we think they should be prioritized,” said Crippes, who helped craft the letter addressed to members of Utah’s Unified Command which included at the time former Governor Gary Herbert and then Governor-elect Spencer Cox.

“We did not receive a formal response to our letter from the state,” said Crippes.

The no-response comes as members of the disabled community like Danielle Barrani seek help for their loved ones.

Her 17-year-old daughter Mia has Down Syndrome.

“Individuals who have down syndrome have a five times greater chance of getting Covid, and ten times more likely to die from it,” said Barrani to ABC4 in a previous report on December 31, 2020.

Due to her daughter’s high-risk, their family’s been quarantined since March.

In her quest to find answers on when her daughter can get vaccinated to return to school, Barrani says she’s gotten no-where.

In a statement provided to ABC4, Barrani says, “For eleven months we have been told to protect the most vulnerable from Covid 19 that have the highest risk of factors until a vaccine becomes available.  Individuals who have Down syndrome have a five times higher risk of contracting Covid 19 and ten times higher risk of death. The recommendation for vaccination by the CDC is Group 1 B/C . Those that have been trusted to make the humane and moral decisions  of who receives this life saving vaccination are willfully and purposefully leaving them behind.  My daughters pediatrician who specializes in Down syndrome is ready, willing and able to write her a recommendation for vaccination immediately.  It is my job as a mother to advocate for my daughter who cannot speak for herself,  it is my moral obligation as a human being to advocate for all individuals that have Down syndrome in a global pandemic.”

By email, the Utah Department of Health tells ABC4 “no decisions here as of yet” when it comes to when the disabled community will be vaccinated.

This comes as vaccines are now being distributed to local health departments instead of hospitals. The state health department says this was always apart of the plan, “as hospitals got through their healthcare workers they would stop receiving doses. They will continue to receive second doses for their employees. But beginning next week, the focus shifts to getting as much vaccine as possible to high throughput locations, like local health departments. This is because the populations now eligible to receive vaccine are much larger than what hospitals can accommodate.”

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