This letter was submitted as a joint public comment on Tuesday, December 22, 2020:
Dear California Department of Public Health and California Community Vaccine Advisory Committee Members and Staff:
The principles of disability justice offer a specific lens that takes into account how race, class, and other identity and systemic factors impact people with disabilities. Far too often, disability rights groups lack a fundamental understanding of racism, white supremacy, and privilege, while groups focused on race, age, or weight related issues lack a fundamental understanding of the disability community. We are concerned that grassroots disability justice groups are not at the table and therefore that our concerns will not be fully represented in the decision-making process related to vaccine prioritization and distribution.
We believe that grassroots community voices that represent an intersection of disability, racial equity, fat liberation, and aging are vitally important to this process and should be heard because we are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and systemic inequities.
Please include at least one disability justice-focused group on this Advisory Committee, and all future such committees.
In addition, please implement the following recommendations:
Higher weight people, older people, and people with disabilities or chronic conditions that put them more at risk for COVID-19 problems, or who are delaying critical medical care due to their COVID-19 risk level, should be prioritized immediately after healthcare workers and people in nursing homes and other congregate settings.
Disabled people in psychiatric institutions, group homes, board and cares, or other congregate settings should be in the same category as people in nursing homes.
People who receive care at home from family, friends, or providers, along with all paid and unpaid home care workers, should also receive vaccine options when people in care facilities do, or immediately after.
People in jails and prisons must be prioritized for the vaccine. Currently one in five people in prison has COVID-19. A large proportion of people in prison are disabled people and seniors, as well as Black, Latinx and indigenous people.
The vaccine should always be optional and not mandatory due to the history of medical experimentation and abuse in the US directed against racialized, disadvantaged, and/or marginalized.
Any disabled person, higher weight, or older person who is at high COVID-19 risk and who is delaying critical care or testing should be prioritized immediately after frontline healthcare workers, even if disabled people, higher weight, and older people as a group are not so prioritized.
Disability Justice League, Bay Area
Senior and Disability Action
Disability Visibility Project
National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance
Health Justice Commons
LA Spoonie Collective