My friend Amber Smock is a long-time activist for disability rights here in Chicago.
I want to share some of her observations on the state of the Covid vaccine roll-out that she shared on her Facebook feed.
1. Early vaccination status does NOT guarantee you a vaccine, given that there is still a vaccine shortage, and given that appointment systems vary widely.
2. The appointment or line system is very flawed. Some places offer online appointments, other places do phone-only; neither is ideal and neither is actually accessible in a cross-disability way.
3. It is critical for public health departments to provide clear, easy to follow instructions to employers, disability providers, and the general public. There have been instances of total miscommunication that don’t help.
4. First-come, first-served is terrible when there is still a shortage because there are many people willing to travel a long way to get a shot, only to be told there’s nothing available and to have to turn around and go home.
5. Government really needs to partner with labor unions, disability networks, community groups to offer guidance, space, and mobilization.
6. Disparities are gonna happen (at least short term for sure, which is terrible). In Oregon the most noticeable disparity was that people living in smaller towns seemed to have better access than those in urban settings. This is not dissimilar to Illinois where Chicago has a high population and it will take longer to get 3 million people vaccinated.
7. Disability support workers and interpreters need to get vaccinated unless their own disability prevents it.
8. The entire process for vaccination is unnecessarily stressful and triggering to people’s mental health.
9. Placing the burden on disability folks to find a vaccine/get an appointment is pretty disgusting when you consider that hospitals/medical centers took it upon themselves to organize their staff/contractors to get vaccinated. Rolling this out in an organized way that doesn’t force people into a weird pinata party FOMO situation is key. We don’t HAVE to do it that way.
10. People are so desperate for vaccination that they may be willing to bend the rules to get one.