Prioritize Adults with Developmental Disabilities for the COVID-19 Vaccine in Saskatchewan

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In the current recommendations for vaccine distribution in Saskatchewan, people with “very significant developmental disabilities” are included in Phase II along with the age 60-69 age group – wording that is vague and difficult to interpret. This can create additional burden to health care providers to determine who is eligible (there is no list or even a diagnostic code commonly used to identify these individuals), in addition to missing many high risk individuals whose disabilities may not be categorized as such. Given the small number of individuals this concerns (1% of the population) and the reality that their risk is not simply associated with the severity of the disability (Lodge, Brown, Hollins, 2021), we believe that all individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) should be prioritized in Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. Individuals with IDD often show signs and symptoms of frailty at a younger age than individuals without IDD putting them at greater risk of poor outcomes if they contract COVID-19. Additionally, many individuals live in congregate settings, have multiple caregivers, and/or have sensory challenges that limit an individual’s ability to follow public health guidelines that are critical to reduce transmission of the virus (Campanella, Rotenberg, Volpe, Balogh, Lunsky, 2021).

Recent research suggests that individuals with disabilities have higher rates of hospitalization and death due to COVlD-19 than those without disabilities (Campanella, et al., 2021). A recent paper in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities were nearly 8 times as likely to die of COVID-19 than other individuals, making intellectual disability the highest ranked predictor of mortality besides age. (Gleason, Ross, Fossi, Blonsky, Tobias, Stephens, 2021).

We are urging the Saskatchewan government to please consider clarifying the recommendations for vaccine distribution to include all individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities as a high priority group. Other countries and provinces have already taken action to provide clear recommendations regarding vaccine distribution for this marginalized population. In October, 2020, Scott Moe stated: “We want to make Saskatchewan the best place in Canada for people living with a disability.” It’s time to act.

Please sign this petition to urge the members of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health and the Canadian Parliament to prioritize people with intellectual and developmental disabilities for COVID-19 vaccine distribution.