The Arc of North Carolina continues to work closely with families and community organizations to ensure all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are prioritized in the COVID-19 vaccine schedule. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) met with a group of leaders from I/DD organizations, including members of our staff, to discuss vaccine prioritization.
Our concerns were heard; however, NC DHHS made the decision to leave the current vaccine schedule in place.
All people with I/DD between the ages of 16 and 64 need to be moved to Group 2 for a COVID vaccine. It is understood that vaccine is in short supply; we ask that they be added to the group, not pushed to the front of the line.
While acknowledging that NC DHHS prioritized people with I/DD living in long term care, group homes, and shared housing receiving HCBS to receive the vaccine, it is important to note most people with I/DD are living at home with family, receiving supports from family caregivers or paid staff, and may attend school, work, and volunteer in the community.
While many of the family members and direct support staff around them are eligible to receive the COVID vaccine, people with I/DD are still waiting and enduring a higher risk for severe COVID complications leading to hospitalization and death. People with I/DD are living in a quarantine pod that can include parents, caregivers, or direct support staff. Why vaccinate everyone around a person with I/DD? Vaccinate everyone in the pod, especially the person with I/DD, since they are at high risk for severe COVID complications.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have stated that people with I/DD are at an increased risk to become infected and to die from complications of COVID-19. The COVID-19 Case and Mortality Report studied COVID-19 data from eight states. The authors found that 12.3% of people with I/DD died as a result of complications due to COVID-19 compared to 6.7% of the general public who died from complications due to COVID-19. Clearly, people with I/DD are at much higher risk.
The Arc of North Carolina has significant shared knowledge and collective experience from families and individuals in the I/DD community experiencing the devastating effects of the pandemic. We are willing to work cooperatively with state leadership to help them fully understand the increased risk to people with I/DD and will work with state and federal agencies to address the needs for this community.