Vaccine eligibility expands: Advocates asking for more guidance on disabilities


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Eligibility for the COVID vaccine in NYS expanded Monday to include those with comorbidities or underlying conditions. Under that category, developmental and intellectual disabilities are listed.

Gregg Beratan, Director of Advocacy at the Center For Disability Rights says there are many conditions that could fall under this category, and people are left consulting with their own doctor to see if they qualify. The reason – he says there’s just not enough clarity from the state, and it’s concerning because each doctor could interpret someone’s situation differently.

An example of this: Beratan says those with Schizophrenia are the second most vulnerable population to COVID complications, behind age. But they don’t seem to be included in rollout.

He’s also worried some may be left out simply because their disability only affects small population of people, and is therefore forgotten.

“There are groups that are susceptible but statistically too small to be included and therefore left out, I have a friend with Osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bones, also has significant effect on lung function and therefore makes people very vulnerable but because the population is so small they’ve been left out entirely,” he said.

And while the state’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities is handling a lot of the rollout, Beratan says not everyone receives services there.

The OFPWDD says the following in a statement:

“People living in OPWDD residential settings such as group homes, as well as all staff who support people with developmental disabilities, were previously prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the 1a prioritization for congregate settings. On February 5, 2021, Governor Cuomo announced that all remaining people with intellectual and developmental disabilities would be added to the 1b prioritization category, as part of the announcement to add those with comorbidities, making all people supported by OPWDD now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines as of today, February 15, 2021. People with developmental disabilities can contact their Care Manager for assistance with getting the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Beratan also expressed a concern for transportation becoming a challenge for some who are unable to, but Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza urges the public to reach out if this is the case. He says the county has been offering assistance for those who need it by providing service to people in their home – if this is you, call 753-5555.

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