Advocates Fear for People with Disabilities and Underlying Health Conditions Under the Age of 65 Being Left Out as California Shifts to Age-Based COVID-19 Vaccine Priority

Photo of doctor helping giving a COVID vaccine to a woman.

Disability Rights California and advocates share frustration with the new release of guidelines from Governor Newsom for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. The new guidelines result in the disabled, chronically ill, high-risk, and immunocompromised people under 65 having to wait even longer, putting their lives at risk.

 

The Real Stories of Disabled Lives Lost and Affected by the Pandemic

Advocates urge Governor Newsom to prioritize people with disabilities and high-risk health conditions now for the vaccine.

Full Video of Virtual Press Conference with Discussion

Today Disability-rights advocates held a press conference to highlight COVID-19 deaths of people with disabilities and urge Governor Newsom to make good on his public commitment to decide this week how California will give COVID-vaccine priority to people with disabilities.

At a San Diego briefing Monday, Newsom acknowledged the urgent needs of people with disabilities, promising to “figure this out, once and for all, by the end of the week.”

“The disability community has heard promises before from the Newsom administration that high risk Californians will be prioritized for the vaccine. This time we are hoping for no more excuses and that vaccines will be made available to people with disabilities in the next few weeks,” said Judy Mark, President of Disability Voices United.

The vaccine will come too late for thousands of people with high risk disabilities who have already lost their lives to COVID-19. Wednesday’s press conference, sponsored by a coalition of disability-rights groups, will spotlight several of their stories. The virtual event will also feature Dr. Alyssa Burgart, an anesthesiologist and bioethicist at Stanford University as well as leaders of disability organizations. An expert will also describe how dozens of other states have already given vaccine priority to people with disabilities

People with disabilities are at increased risk of dying from COVID-19, and California’s disability community expressed outrage after Governor Newsom last month abruptly removed them from the tiers and switched to an age-based system.

“It makes no sense to vaccinate a healthy 65-year old before a younger person who is at high risk of hospitalization and death from COVID,” Mark said.

Many other states have made people with high risk disabilities a priority for vaccinations, as will be discussed at the press conference. “California should be leading the nation. Instead we’re behind many other states in protecting the people who are most at risk of dying of the coronavirus,” said Silvia Yee, Senior Staff Attorney at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund and a member of Newsom’s California Vaccine Advisory Committee. “We are gratified that Governor Newsom is reconsidering his policy and hoping he’ll rise to the challenge.”

Speakers

  • Kara Ayers, PhD, Associate Director, University of Cincinnati Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
  • Dr. Alyssa Burgart, Anesthesiologist and Bioethicist, Stanford Hospital
  • Judy Mark, President, Disability Voices United
  • Hector Manuel Ramirez, Brother of Eduardo who had high risk disabilities and died four weeks ago from COVID-19
  • Julie Snyder, was the conservator and surrogate parent for a person with autism, schizophrenia, and epilepsy who died of COVID-19
  • Silvia Yee, Senior Staff Attorney at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Member, California Vaccine Community Advisory Committee
  • As well as other family members who have lost loved ones with disabilities to COVID-19.

Press Conference 2/10/2021

Advocates Fear for People with Disabilities and Underlying Health Conditions Under the Age of 65 Being Left Out as California Shifts to Age-Based COVID-19 Vaccine Priority

Full Video of Virtual Press Conference with Discussion

Disability Rights California and advocates share frustration with the new release of guidelines from Governor Newsom for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. The new guidelines result in the disabled, chronically ill, high-risk, and immunocompromised people under 65 having to wait even longer, putting their lives at risk.

Days following the announcement, public members have also raised concerns, calling on the Governor and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to take action and support this community. They have shared their stories and used #HighRiskCA.

“The Governor has said he is committed to equity. We share his commitment, and we support vaccinating older Californians as a priority group, but the commitment to equity is meaningless if all of the high risk people who aren’t over 65 have to wait until June to be vaccinated. So many people living with high risk disabilities, including those who are also in marginalized communities, are going to die if the Governor doesn’t reconsider.”- Andy Imparato, DRC Executive Director.

During the virtual press conference held today, Disability Rights California and advocates discussed their response to the new guidelines, first-hand stories from members of the disability community and the impact this has, and what we are calling on Governor Newsom and CDPH to stand by to support people with disabilities and underlying health conditions.

Speakers

  • Andrew Imparato, Executive Director, Disability Rights California
  • Alice Wong, Founder and Director of the Disability Visibility Project (pre-recorded video)
  • Elena Escalera, Ph.D., St. Mary's College, #NoBodyIsDisposable Coalition
  • Engracia Figueroa, Communities Actively Living Independent and Free (CALIF)
  • Sondra Solovay, JD., author, subject matter expert
  • Alyssa Burgart, M.D., M.A., Standford Center for Biomedical Ethics
  • Claudia Center, Legal Director, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

Press Conference 1/28/2021

 

Press Coverage

Media Contact

Melody Pomraning
Communications Director
Disability Rights California
(916) 504-5938
Melody.Pomraning@disabilityrightsca.org