People with disabilities, underlying conditions concerned by age-based vaccine plan

People with disabilities, underlying conditions concerned by age-based vaccine plan

Olivia Sandusky


Richard Balocco, the president and CEO of Desert Arc, is disappointed to see his clients with disabilities are not a priority in the state’s new vaccine distribution plan.

“It’s just common sense, it’s hard to believe they’ve been left out,” said Balocco.

On Tuesday, Gov. Newsom announced vaccine phases based mainly on occupation have gone away, and vaccines will now be administered by age.

“You need to think of them [people with disabilities] as in the 75 year and older category, they’re a fragile group,” said Balocco.

Desert Arc is a nonprofit organization in the desert that serves people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

That includes conditions such as Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Epilepsy and many others.

Richard considers this group to be very high risk, and he’s worried about their safety as vaccination dates remain uncertain.

But people with disabilities are just one group out of several that are frustrated with the new system. 

The social media #HighRiskCA shares the concerns of people with chronic health conditions and other underlying issues (who were supposed to be in Group 1-C) are now seemingly left out.

And the plan for the homeless and incarcerated communities is now unclear.

However, Dr. Ghaly, California’s Health and Human Services Secretary, noted there might be some prioritization among age groups.

“Younger individuals who are in professions where they’re not as exposed will end up waiting a little longer than those with higher risk or exposure,” said Ghaly.

Once the groups 1-A and 1-B are done getting vaccinated, the state will move into the age-based system.

Dr. Geoffrey Leung with the Riverside University Health System says we may continue to see further prioritization.

“It’s still uncertain. We do know there’s been a lot of advocacy for individuals with disabilities, so we know that the state is very concerned about that and wants to make sure they’re also prioritizing that group,” said Dr. Leung. 

And as the state finalizes the new vaccine roll-out plan, Dr. Leung urges the Coachella valley to have patience.

“Where we are right now, 95 percent of the population doesn’t have access to the vaccine. We know that everybody’s anxious. We are waiting sort of for that final guide from the state. And I think until we have that it will be difficult to comment more,” said Dr. Leung. 

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