NewsVaccine in Arizona

Actions

Adults with disabilities fight for COVID-19 vaccine

Pfizer vaccine.JPG
Posted at 6:43 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 20:58:37-05

PHOENIX  — The pandemic has been tough on everyone but for those like Becky Kankelfritz’s 17-year-old daughter Abby, it means no in person school, no physical contact with friends or relatives.

Abby lives with severe disabilities and underlying health conditions. “In the past year, she’s been to three doctors' appointments, that’s the only places she’s been, she hasn’t been to a store, she hasn’t been anywhere,” said Becky.

“I have been worried about her getting the virus for so long, it would be such a relief to know that she’s protected."

Becky says until this week, she thought Abby was next to get the vaccine; that is until the state transitioned to an age-based system rather than moving forward to those with underlying health conditions.

“It’s just kind of tough to see her get left behind,” said Becky.

“She would ask me, 'when can I get the vaccine?' It was really hard to tell her it’s not your turn yet,” said Corina Parra.

Corina’s daughter Cristina is 35 years old. Cristina was diagnosed with epilepsy at a young age and controls her seizures with daily medication.

Cristina has been homebound since last March. The pandemic has kept her from attending her adult day program at One Step Beyond - an organization offering social services and enrichment programs for those with disabilities.

“She dances and she does art and that really puts a smile on her face,” said Corina.

That same program, sent an email alerting Corina to an opportunity for Cristina to get the vaccine. “As soon as I saw that email, I didn’t even take a second, I immediately got on the phone,” said Corina.

Cristina received her first dose the next day. But many others like her are now left to wait.

“For people with Down Syndrome, specifically, that includes heart disease, and obesity, and diabetes, and those are some of the top things that you know, make coronavirus, kind of a difficult virus to fight off,” said Madison Rogers-Blanton, CEO of One Step Beyond. She and other organizations are now reaching out to Governor Ducey to move adults with disabilities up on the priority list.

“I think a lot of populations and communities that have sort of been overlooked and obviously people with disabilities is one of them,” said Rogers-Blanton.

Dr. Cara Christ says while some may feel discouraged by the new process, she insists it make it so the vaccine will reach those groups faster.

“This will actually move those individuals up, when we go to the age-based category, we anticipate that it will be about four to five weeks as we transition to through the age categories,” said Dr. Christ.

She says they hope to have the vaccine for anyone who wants it in eight weeks. Until then, you can bet these families will continue to advocate for those who can’t.

“Even the CDC recommends that people with disabilities be vaccinated, I would just say the health department should look at that and look at these populations that have been sheltering in place for a year,” said Becky.