NCD recommends COVID-19 vaccine allocation equity for individuals with I/DD

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For Immediate Release

Dec. 15, 2020

WASHINGTON--The National Council on Disability (NCD) recommends vaccine allocation equity for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

As the distribution and allocations of a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 continues, state governments and health departments must determine effective and equitable frameworks. All state vaccine allocation frameworks should explicitly include individuals with I/DD and the individuals, direct support professionals (DSP), and family members who provide support to them.

NCD specifically recommends the following be included in all vaccine allocation frameworks:

I/DD should be included in the list of high-risk diagnoses used to determine vaccine priority. Compared to individuals without I/DD, individuals with I/DD face alarmingly higher complication and mortality rates from COVID-19, with mortality rates up to 15 percent. Current vaccine allocation frameworks prioritize groups at similar risk for severe complications and death, but prioritizing individuals with I/DD should be made explicit throughout all relevant guidance and state executive orders. Additionally, those who live with or provide care to people with IDD should be included in the same phase of vaccine allocation. 

Group homes and other congregate residential settings should be considered equivalent risk to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Individuals with I/DD who live in these settings should be included in equivalent phases of vaccine allocation.

On top of the baseline increased risk for severe disease and death from COVID-19, many individuals with I/DD face additionally heightened risk from living in congregate residential settings. The increased proportion of COVID-19 related deaths in older adults who live in long-term care facilities and congregate living is well-recognized. Accordingly, this population is prioritized in the early phases of nearly all vaccine allocation frameworks. Despite sharing similar medical risk factors, individuals with I/DD who live in group settings are not equally prioritized in several frameworks. Individuals with I/DD who live in congregate living settings should be considered at equivalent risk and included in the same phase of vaccine allocation as older adults who live in similar settings.

DSPs should be designated as essential healthcare workers and included in frameworks accordingly. They provide essential health related support to individuals with I/DD, including work that involves exposure to aerosols and bodily fluids. As a result, they are at significantly higher risk for exposure to and contraction of COVID-19. In order to protect DSPs and the individuals they support, all DSPs should be classified as essential healthcare workers and included in the appropriate phase of vaccine allocation

In September, NCD submitted recommendations to the National Academies regarding framework of potential distribution plans for a COVID-19 vaccine.

About the National Council on Disability: First established as an advisory council within the Department of Education in 1978, NCD became an independent federal agency in 1984. In 1986, NCD recommended enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and drafted the first version of the bill which was introduced in the House and Senate in 1988. Since enactment of the ADA in 1990, NCD has continued to play a leading role in crafting disability policy, and advising the President, Congress and other federal agencies on disability policy.