COVID-19 has impacted more than 61 million people with disabilities living in the United States, and strategic efforts are underway to help get vaccines safely into the arms of people with disabilities. To respond to the need for targeted vaccination messaging for individuals with disabilities, their family members and direct care providers, the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities (MCDD) is participating in two important national grants.
First, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have awarded 12 AUCD network centers grants to participate in a new initiative, Addressing COVID-19 Vaccine Access and Confidence Among People with Disabilities. The MCDD at Kennedy Krieger Institute has been selected to participate in this critical work on behalf of Marylanders with disabilities. The project is scheduled for 12 months. Cheryl Hansen is working with the MCDD team on this grant.
Through this funding opportunity, the MCDD will work to identify barriers and challenges to vaccine accessibility, address vaccine misinformation, and facilitate COVID-19 vaccination conversations with partners, with the goal of increasing COVID-19 vaccine accessibility. The MCDD will do this work in collaboration with the CDC and many local partners, including Kennedy Krieger’s Center for Diversity in Public Health Leadership Training and Center for Child and Family Traumatic Stress, Johns Hopkins Medicine, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center, the Baltimore City Health Department, and the Social Determinants of Health Taskforce for Baltimore City.
To accomplish these goals, the MCDD plans to conduct webinars and community-based training sessions, and meet with stakeholders so state and national partners can support each other in addressing vaccine barriers and challenges. The MCDD will also participate in a national community of practice (CoP) with its partners. Through coordinated efforts, the MCDD believes this project will help its state partners design and disseminate effective COVID-19 vaccination messaging more efficiently, which will increase access to COVID-19 vaccinations.
The second grant is a partnership between the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and the CDC. With funding from the CDC, the ACL issued grants to disability and aging networks, allowing agencies to address the barriers that prevent these populations from getting vaccinated, and to focus on getting vaccines safely in the arms of people with disabilities who may be vaccine-hesitant or vaccine-resistant. It is estimated that thousands of individuals with disabilities in Maryland who have not yet received the vaccine have yet to be identified.
To achieve the goals of the ACL/CDC grant, the MCDD will focus on one or more of the following activities:
- Education about the importance of receiving a vaccine
- Helping with scheduling a vaccine appointment
- Arranging and providing accessible transportation
- Providing companion/personal support
- Identifying people unable to independently travel to a vaccination site
- Providing technical assistance to local health departments on vaccine accessibility
Partners for this 18-month project include the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council, Disability Rights Maryland (DRM), five Maryland Centers for Independent Living and the MCDD. The work of DRM will focus on individuals in prison systems and congregant settings. Together, the partners intend to meet the goals and help the state overcome barriers to vaccination, so all people with disabilities who want the vaccine can safely and easily access it.