Organizations in Kansas pushing to have people with disabilities put in Phase 1 of Vaccine Distribution

Coatney says those with disabilities living in a congregate situation or living at home and their attendants are at an equally high risk

KOAM NEWS- In a web conference Monday morning,  Southeast Kansas Independent Living, The Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas, Prairie Independent Living Resource Center, Independent Connection, Topeka Independent Living Resource Center and Kansas ADAPT joined together to express their concern with the Kansas vaccine distribution plan.

“The group home settings and people who have in home care should also be included in those first line workers because they are all people who are extremely at risk, people who have care providers just like this is happening in nursing facilities, so we want all people to be protected but we think those with disabilities should have been included in that first round” said Shari Coatney, President and CEO of SKIL.

Coatney says those with disabilities living in a congregate situation or living at home and their attendants are at an equally high risk to those listed in phase 1 of distribution.

Phase 1 for Kansas Distribution includes the following

“Phase 1 of the phased approach for the Kansas COVID-19 Vaccine Plan will include Phase 1A and Phase 1B. While there are many unknown variables about the recommendations for use of initial vaccine in Phase 1, it is likely that vaccine will be available as follows:

Phase 1A: • Healthcare personnel paid and unpaid, who are likely to be exposed to or treat people with COVID-19 or infectious materials and are unable to work from home.

Phase 1B: • People at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including those with underlying medical conditions such as cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart conditions, obesity, sickle cell disease, smokers, or those with a history of smoking, and type 2 diabetes • People 65 years of age and older • Other essential workers • Long-term care residents”

“It’s not housekeeping services its personal care services and so they are very essential workers and the people who receive those services clearly have preexisting conditions so the need to have the immunization available to them is very important​” added Coatney.

The web conference highlighted personal stories from people with disabilities on how important it is that they be included.

“My attendant may have been exposed and that means she had to stay away for 14 days or so and that has affected me for what I can do in my home and caring for myself dressing and other such things” said Colin, a Self-Advocate.

“If one of them was positive and I ended up having to quarantine and not having anyone come in at all to help me even though I feel like they could have figured out what to do with that, I just don’t like the feeling of being in that situation at all” said Brad, also a Self-Advocate.

Coatney is afraid of what could happen to those living congruently together if they are unable to get the vaccine right away.

“One person gets exposed, it’s a chain of events that they are going to be exposed as well, and they have less ability to keep themselves isolated or if they are dependent on someone else to come in their home it’s the same thing.”

The groups have reached out to the Kansas Department of Health but are still waiting to hear back,

“We want people that are living in congregate settings in the community or receiving community-based services in the community to be available, so yes we would like to have it written in the plan”

KOAM has also reached out to the Kansas Department of Health and have not heard back.