Why COVID-19 vaccination requirements can exclude some who can’t get the vaccine

Coronavirus

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — More and more businesses are starting to require masking again. Some, are also asking for proof of COVID-19 vaccination. 

Last week, Governor Cuomo encouraged private businesses, like bars and restaurants, to require customers to show proof of vaccination for admission, but not all are in favor of that idea. 

Advocates with the Center for Disability Rights in Rochester say Governor Cuomo’s recommendation for businesses excludes people who may not be able to get the vaccine. 

“They may have an allergy, cancer … and they are about to be operated on, or other disability that precludes them from being able to get the vaccine because of what their health care provider says,” said Zach Garafalo, the Manager of Government Affairs at Center for Disability Rights. 

Garafalo said it’s important people who don’t have the option to get vaccinated, still feel like they can participate fully in society. 

“They should not be lumped into the category of people who choose not to be vaccinated,” Garafalo said. “We urge the governor to rethink this, represent the entire State of New York and everyone who lives in it, and craft a policy that makes sure people who cannot be vaccinated, are able to access restaurants, bars.”

Elijah McCloud, the Service Coordination Manager for the Center for Disability Rights, said he feels like Governor Cuomo overlooked those who can’t get the vaccine when he recommended businesses require vaccinations. 

“The encouragement that he sort of expressed to these business owners to only allow vaccinated individuals, just kind of creates a space that we don’t feel is beneficial or even deserving of individuals that would be vaccinated if they were able,” McCloud said. 

McCloud and Garafalo are calling on the Governor to update the state’s Excelsior Pass app, which electronically stores people’s vaccination cards and makes it easier for them to show to businesses.

“He could do this by amending the excelsior pass so there is a medical exemption. You show your pass and then you’re able to go in. That avoids the awkward conversation between bartenders, waitresses, waiters, about, ‘Oh I have a disability, I can’t get vaccinated,” Garafalo said. 

Garafalo said individuals with disabilities already face additional challenges when it comes to vaccines and the pandemic. He said they had to sue to get interpreters for the deaf community at the governor’s COVID-19 briefings. Garafalo also said people who are blind have a hard time getting information about the vaccine. 

“Blind people have difficulty accessing the vaccine website, and people with low computer literacy… accessing the website and navigating that is a nightmare.”

McCloud said it’s also important more people with disabilities are sitting at the table in the state government, so they aren’t forgotten about when rules and recommendations are made.

“These individuals have issues with accessing many of the privileges that we consider to be normal. Privilege is something that is invisible to those that have it and it’s important for us to consider those individuals that are not typically recognized,” McCloud said. 

For those who may be concerned about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, experts say it’s important to have a conversation with your health care provider. 

“Talk to your doctor about getting the vaccine, that’s a decision between you and your healthcare provider, obviously we are all in this together, if you are able to get vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you don’t know and you are a person with a disability and you are concerned about it, speak to your doctor,” Garafalo said. 

To learn more about the Center for Disability Rights, click here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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