Prioritize disabled Canadians in group homes for vaccines, says advocate
Brother with disability is among those largely forgotten, says Sandra Valliquette
Sandra Valliquette is worried her brother is being left behind in Ontario's vaccination rollout plan.
He lives at a group home in Saint-Pascal-Baylon, an area just southeast of Clarence-Rockland, Ont., that provides housing for people with special needs and mental health disabilities.
According to the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, people in group homes and other congregate settings will be vaccinated in Phase 2, beginning later this month and running through August.
Valliquette says her brother has been living in lockdown for six months and worries what being categorized as a lower priority will mean for him, and the approximately 30 others he lives with.
"My brother has underlying health issues. He's vulnerable in that place," she said.
Lack of data worrisome, says advocate
While people living in group homes are a higher priority than some, Valliquette worries that being in Phase 2 means her brother will remain in lockdown for the foreseeable future.
"I am just confused about why he has to wait," she said.
Megan Linton, a disabilities justice advocate, says people living in these group settings — whether they're for-profit homes, shelters or in independent living — should be fast-tracked up the COVID-19 vaccine queue.
There's a lack of information about how many people with disabilities live in these places or have died of COVID-19, Linton said, but data from other parts of the world suggests people with disabilities are some of those most at risk.
The situation has led to a lack of accountability for these institutions when there is an outbreak, said Linton.
"It's incredibly concerning the way that disabled people have been left out of the vaccinations prioritization," she said. "If you are at higher risk, you should be prioritized."
She said age shouldn't be the sole priority, noting that many living with disabilities have shorter than average life expectancies.
"The government has the opportunity to prioritize and to ensure that this doesn't become a greater crisis," Linton said.
Valliquette said if group homes can't be made a higher priority, she hopes Ontario reconsiders its stance inoculating more people with a single dose before moving onto the second.
"There has to be some sort of flexibility and second thought," Valliquette said.