Alongside our sister organizations and other statewide disability advocacy organizations, the Maine Developmental Disabilities Council has signed onto a letter encouraging the Maine CDC and Governor Mills to prioritize the family members of people with developmental disabilities in the vaccine rollout and included in group 1a.
Click here to read the letter from Representative Laurie Osher of Orono and many members of the legislature, calling for vaccine priority for the family members of people with disabilities.
Click here to read the letter we signed onto, supporting Representative Osher and her colleagues and underlining this need.
Here is the press release from the Maine Parent Federation, explaining why this is such an important priority:
Augusta, Maine – Disability advocacy organizations across the state are calling on Governor Mills and Dr. Nirav Shah, Director of the Maine CDC, to include family members of individuals with disabilities in Phase 1a of the COVID-19 vaccine approach. The effort, led by Rep. Laurie Osher (D-Orono) and backed by the Autism Society of Maine, the Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Students, Disability Rights Maine, the Epilepsy Foundation of New England, the Maine Developmental Disabilities Council, and Maine Parent Federation, seeks to prioritize family members residing with individuals at risk for poor COVID outcomes. This includes family members of children who are too young for the vaccine.
Representative Osher’s proposal would amend Phase 1a to include family members of individuals with intellectual disabilities, autism, brain injury, and other related conditions. Although individuals with these disabilities are not inherently high risk, it is well-documented that these diagnoses often present underlying medical issues that place individuals at increased risk for severe illness due to COVID-19. These medical conditions may include cardiac/heart defects and disease, obesity, diabetes, pulmonary disorders, sleep apnea, epilepsy, gastrointestinal disorders, and more.
The fear that individuals with disabilities might contract COVID-19 from a family member is very real. Families must make tough decisions about whether to take a leave of absence from work or if all children in the household should engage remote learning in order to reduce the potential for infection. While there is no debate that the pandemic has created hardships for all Mainers, these families face the real risk of their loved one succumbing to COVID-19. Without this change, and unless they are otherwise eligible to receive the vaccine, family member will be some of the last groups to be vaccinated. This wait will only further limit their ability to provide for their families, while placing individuals with disabilities at increased risk of exposure.