The Wyoming Department of Health Must Prioritize DD Waivers for COVID Vaccines

The Tier 1b classifications for receiving the COVID vaccine need to include ALL people on a Developmental Disability (DD) waiver.

At the last minute, Tier 1a classification was changed to include all “Residential service settings for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities of 3 or more DD Waiver participants (Participants and direct support professionals).” This change allowed adults with disabilities living in group homes to access this life-saving vaccine, but did not include adults with disabilities who receive respite/direct support services from their own or their family’s private home.

Having been excluded from Tiere 1a, adults with disabilities living independently need to be included in the Tier 1b classification. Not only are they in the community more often, but they often do so without staff to help maintain COVID safety protocols. Many adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities have a more challenged understanding of social distancing, wearing a mask, and handwashing protocols causing them to be more vulnerable to contracting the life-threatening virus. Many adults with disabilities also have other medical conditions, which, according to the CDC, puts them at a higher risk of infection or severe illness due to COVID.

In an article describing how COVID has impacted adults with disabilities, The American Psychological Association stated adults with disabilities find it harder to access medical care especially when resources are scarce. This reflects the conclusions of other research from the Journal of Social Work in Disability & Rehabilitation indicating that policies that “ration medical care can intensify discriminatory attitudes towards disabled individuals during times of crisis.” Whether implicit or explicit, people with disabilities often experience negative bias when accessing healthcare due to disability discrimination. Another reason, from my point of view, is a lack of advocacy. Many adults with disabilities do not feel comfortable or do not know how to advocate for themselves; able-bodied caregivers and allies must take a stand on their behalf.

I am calling on the Wyoming Department of Health to have ALL individuals on a DD waiver included in the classifications for Tier 1b.

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