Covid, Vaccines, and Disability
People with Disabilities have a unique set of questions about the Covid Vaccine. Many of us worry about whether the new vaccine will be safe. I am a woman with a disability and the mother of three children with developmental disabilities. We asked questions and read the science. In the end, we all got vaccinated.
Vaccinations are not new or rare. Children get vaccines before they attend school. There are also vaccination requirements for immigration into the United States. Our military personnel are routinely vaccinated. Vaccines have saved 2-3 million lives per year. Polio, smallpox, and tuberculosis can be life threatening. These diseases have been reduced or wiped out entirely due to vaccines.
Getting the Covid Vaccine
According to the CDC, most people with disabilities are not at higher risk for getting Covid just because they have a disability. But, people with underlying medical conditions or who live in shared housing have a greater risk of serious consequences if they get Covid.
Some people with limited mobility may have a greater chance of exposure to Covid. Direct support providers who have several clients, or family members who work outside their homes, may bring a greater risk of infection into their living areas. So, it’s important for people with disabilities to get the Covid vaccine if they can. Experience with the vaccine has been positive. It has few side effects and could protect you from serious health issues. If you have an underlying medical condition, talk with your doctor.
What about Routine Vaccinations?
What about Routine Vaccines?
Research shows that people with disabilities can, and should, get the Covid-19 vaccination. However, the disability community should be aware that there are some vaccines which may not be right for them.
For example, the DTaP, which protects against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis. According to the CDC, some children should not get the DTaP, or they should wait until they are older. This includes children who have seizures or other nervous system conditions, brain and spinal cord injuries or tumors, epilepsy, and seizures.
The MMRV (Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Varicella) vaccine should not be given to children with compromised immune systems. For those with a history of seizures, severe allergies or a condition that makes them bleed or bruise easily, talk to your doctor first.
Check the CDC website for the most updated information on the recommended precautions for all vaccines https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/should-not-vacc.html.
Use a Database to Track Your Vaccinations
It’s important to keep up to date records of your immunizations. This will help stop illness. When paper records are lost, digital records are important to prevent repeat vaccines.
Surprisingly, there is no national database for vaccinations. Computerized database programs keep vaccination records at a state or local level. This is important for people with disabilities. We may see a number of specialists or have several caregivers. Vaccine registration provides easy online access to vaccination records for all of them.
Digital records can also provide proof of vaccinations for school, camp and daycare. Ask your doctor to record your immunizations in your state database which can be found here: https://www2a.cdc.gov/vaccines/iis/iissurvey/legislation-survey.asp.
If You Are Injured by a Vaccine
Vaccinations keep as many people as safe as possible from preventable diseases. But, in the end, some vaccines can cause injury to some people. During the 1980s, the U.S. Congress set up a National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. NVICP allows injured patients to file claims for benefits with the federal government.
The NVICP applies to most vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control for children and pregnant women. The Health Resources and Services Administration has posted a Vaccine Injury Table on its website: https://www.hrsa.gov/sites/default/files/hrsa/vaccine-compensation/vaccine-injury-table.pdf. An injury is assumed to be caused by the vaccine if it is listed in this table. Benefits can then be paid. If the injury is not listed, recovery is still possible, but the patient must prove that the vaccine caused the injury.
A separate program covers injuries from “countermeasures” used to fight Covid-19. Report injuries caused by the products, drugs and vaccines that are used to fight Covid-19 here: https://www.hrsa.gov/cicp.
Should My Child Still Get Routine Vaccinations?
During coronavirus, some parents don’t want to take their children out for routine screening and immunizations. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that routine vaccines should still be given. With proper safety measures, doctors’ office visits are safe.
A team of doctors in Louisiana found that the MMR vaccine could actually be helpful to cut down on some of the symptoms of Covid-19. Recent research has confirmed that those who have had the MMR or DTaP vaccines suffered less severe symptoms if they got the virus. So, routine shots can protect against childhood diseases and may protect against the most harmful effects of Covid.
Vaccinations are created to save lives, and they do. If you have an underlying medical condition, talk to your doctor. Read up on the information science has given us. And then, GET VACCINATED.