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Vaccine Priority Update

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced several updates regarding COVID-19 vaccine administration on March 2, 2021. Included in the updates are changes to the vaccination priority for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, including autism. We want to extend our sincere appreciation to Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, Deputy Secretary Dave Richard, DHHS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Betsey Tilson, and Dept. of Mental Health, Developmental Disability and Substance Abuse Services Chief Medical Officer Dr. Carrie Brown for their leadership in prioritizing individuals with disabilities in the vaccine distribution process.

Long-term care in Group 1 (currently being vaccinated) has been re-defined to include people receiving long-term home care for more than 30 days, including Home and Community Based Services for people with IDD, private duty nursing, personal care services, and home health and hospice. Learn more: Deeper Dive Group 1: Health Care Workers and Long-Term Care Staff and Residents. This new definition includes people receiving services, such as Innovations or respite, in their homes.

Starting March 3rd, the state will start to vaccinate ALL frontline essential workers as part of Group 3. Frontline workers include those who must work with the public including those in schools, childcare, food service, grocery stores, government sectors, emergency services, and more teachers and essential workers (Deeper Dive Group 3).

Beginning March 24th, the state will open vaccinations to Group 4, people who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk. NC has clarified the definitions for Group 4 so that it is clear that this group includes people with high-risk medical conditions, including Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, including Down Syndrome, and neurologic conditions, such as dementia and schizophrenia. Learn more: Deeper Dive Group 4: Adults at High Risk for Exposure and Increased Risk of Severe Illness (Essential Workers Not Yet Vaccinated and Other Group Living Settings).

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) includes those on the autism spectrum, even though they are not specifically named in the document.

Please be aware that currently eligible groups – health care workers, long-term care staff and residents, people 65 and older, and childcare and school staff – will continue to be prioritized. Some vaccine providers may not be ready to open to frontline essential workers on March 3 if they are still experiencing high demand for vaccines in Groups 1, 2, and 3 (childcare and school staff). The same may be true when Group 4 opens on March 24th.

Please go to the NCDHHS site, Find Your Spot, Take Your Shot, for more information on eligibility and locating a vaccination site. DHHS has published a Frequently Asked Questions website that is continually updated with information on the vaccines.  Also, in addition to many resources for people with autism and their families on our Autism Society of North Carolina COVID page, we have added a social narrative for receiving vaccine shots.

Thank you again to the Department of Health and Human Services for listening to the concerns of the IDD advocacy community and responding with these changes. Thank you to the many families for their calls and efforts as well to our partners in the IDD advocacy community for collective efforts in making the case for priority vaccination for those we serve. We appreciate working with such great advocacy partners in this effort including The Arc of North Carolina, North Carolina Down Syndrome Alliance, First in Families of North Carolina, and the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities.

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