Story from WDTN by: Aliah Williamson Posted: Jan 6, 2021 / 07:02 PM EST / Updated: Jan 6, 2021 / 10:09 PM EST
Adults with disabilities are at a higher risk for COVID complications and hospitalizations.

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Despite having clients and staff that are part of vaccination group 1A, and who are at high risk of COVID mortality, United Rehabilitation Services says that less than 25 percent of their clients have been vaccinated and none of their staff have been vaccinated so far.

Executive Director, Dennis Grant, says they were notified on Jan. 29 that their adult clients and staff were eligible to get the vaccine this week, but there have already been a few snags in the plan.

First, the Governor’s vaccination distribution plan says that people with developmental disabilities and those with mental health disorders, including substance use disorders, who live in group homes, residential facilities or centers and staff at these locations, are in Group 1A.

“Unfortunately, for a number of the people, about 35 percent of the adults with disabilities that we serve in our day programming, they are living with family members which is not considered a ‘congregate setting’ and they’re not even eligible for the vaccine. Even though they’re at risk,” explained Grant.

Grant also says it has been difficult to make contractual obligations with pharmacies to administer the vaccine to the clients at home or at URS’ facilities so far.

While staff members are registering to receive their vaccine at the convention center, they are finding it difficult to take the three to four hours required for the vaccine process off of work. Due to strict health and safety guidelines, different instructors and caretakers are not permitted to switch clients. And there is already a shortage of staff available to help when others are sick or unavailable.

“It’s great to know that the vaccine is here, but we have a long way to go to correct a lot of logistical problems that were facing,” said Grant.

University of Oxford study found in October that adults with Down Syndrome are almost 5 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID and 10 times more likely to die from complications. Which means Grant and the entire URS staff are taking the virus and the vaccination efforts very seriously.

“We’re very concerned about that because time is of the essence, especially with the current surge that we’re experiencing,” explained Grant.

Grant says he and his staff are currently working with the Montgomery County health department to fix the issues. While taking the vaccine is not mandatory right now, Grant says they are taking this virus serious enough to consider their options legally.