We are a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, and millions of people have now been vaccinated. This past week, the U.S. hit an important milestone of 100 million vaccinations. In Johnson County, that included people with IDD. Each state was tasked with developing its own vaccination protocol and phases, considering factors such as age, occupation and pre-existing conditions. Throughout the discussion of vaccinations in Kansas, families were wondering when their adult loved ones with IDD would be able to be vaccinated.
In the past two weeks, JCDS teamed up with Heartland Pharmacy to provide the COVID-19 vaccine. Through our partnership with Heartland, about 1,200 people receiving IDD services throughout Johnson County, people on the waitlist and staff were vaccinated. Heartland is a long-time partner of JCDS, providing medication to individuals in residential service.
The JCDS nursing and admin staff and the CDDO worked with Heartland to coordinate two COVID-19 vaccine clinics using vaccines provided through Johnson County Department of Health and Environment. Getting the vaccine to individuals with disabilities was a priority because of the increased risk COVID-19 poses to this population. A FAIR Health study from November 2020 found that people with IDD are three times more likely to die after contracting COVID-19.
“People with disabilities are at higher risk of contracting COVID due to the congregate settings they live and work in and their need to be in close contact with their direct care providers,” said Erica Burroughs, JCDS Health Supports Coordinator. “People with disabilities are more likely to have comorbid conditions such as, heart disease, diabetes or obesity that put them at a higher risk of getting severe illness. It may also be hard for them to communicate the signs and symptoms of the illness with caregivers.”
This is a risk that IDD service providers take seriously. But in addition to providing access to the vaccine, educating people in service, their families and staff was paramount.
“Vaccinations are also a great opportunity for people in service to exercise their choice,” said CDDO Director Mandy Flower. The CDDO oversees IDD service providers in Johnson County, and is the single point of entry for IDD services. “We work very hard to provide people in service the information and facts about the vaccine so they can choose to get the vaccine or not. While COVID-19, and now getting access to the vaccine, has been a difficult time for many, the option for people in service to have a choice in if they receive a vaccine or not is an important avenue for people in service to exercise their right to choice.”
Many people in services were excited to be vaccinated. While getting a shot is typically not anyone’s idea of a good time, the vaccine means a return to “normal” is on the horizon for so many people who have been quarantining for the past year.
“The ladies asked that I share these pics with ya'll!” said DSP Heather Kelly as she shared photos of two women in service who were overjoyed to be vaccinated. “Kay was so excited! This morning she told me she wanted to ‘wear something special because it's such a great day!’”
The clinic ran four days at the Elmore Center and two additional days at Life Centers of Kansas. The event went smoothly and was a fantastic step forward in protecting the IDD community and staff in Johnson County. As vaccination numbers increase, a return to regular day and employment services becomes imminent for individuals eager to return.
If you or your loved has an IDD and wants to be vaccinated, the CDDO is hoping to hold another vaccination clinic in early April. However, they encourage everyone to take the JCDHE survey, talk to their primary care physician, or be on the lookout for vaccine clinics at Walgreens and other local pharmacies. The health department survey is now open to anyone in the county interested in being vaccinated.