NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — While several states have not laid out a clear plan as to when people living with an intellectual and developmental disability will get the COVID-19 vaccine, Tennessee made it clear from the very beginning.
The state’s vaccination plan placed adults with disabilities, 18 and older, in Phase 1a1 and thousands have already received their first dose.
For Brad Turner, the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, this achievement was personal. His 14-year-old daughter Kinsley has Cerebral Palsy.
“It’s something I’m very passionate about to make sure we continue to do that because every life is precious and the last thing we want to do is look ourselves in the mirror and say ‘we didn’t do enough for Tennesseans,'” Turner said.
The DIDD directly serves about 12,500 Tennesseans. However, they wanted to ensure anyone within the community in the state is supported and has the opportunity to get the vaccine.
The pandemic severely disrupted their routines and every day lives including how they received homecare or independent living services. Many have different physical challenges or may not fully understand how to follow COVID related protocols i.e., mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing.
“The death rate is three times as high in comparison to a traditional community,” Turner said. “That really showed us the urgency around what our strategy really needed to look like to make sure that we continue to fight for Tennesseans with disabilities.”
Teams of nurses are vaccinating adults, especially ones who live in a group setting.
On Friday, the Tennessee Department of Health made changes to the vaccination plan to further prioritize Tennesseans most at risk of illness or death from COVID-19. This includes people living in households with medically fragile children, including parents, caregivers and other household members age 16 and above, are now eligible for the vaccine in Phase 1c. A spokesperson from the DIDD says parents who qualify for the Katie Beckett Waiver are included in this new category.