WebMD News Brief

Detroit Adds Impaired & Disabled to Vaccine Priority

photo of vaccine

Feb. 22, 2021 -- Detroit is now offering COVID-19 vaccines to adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, vision or hearing impairments, and other intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to NBC News.

The city is among the first to prioritize these categories, with most cities and states focused on first responders and older adults.

“I was surprised to see that and very happy,” Bonnielin Swenor, an epidemiologist and director of John Hopkins University’s Disability Health Research Center, told the news outlet.

“It means people in the disability community were listened to, were considered, and prioritization was revised in a way that is really remarkable,” she said.

Studies from 2020 showed that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have higher risks for severe COVID-19 and death, especially at younger ages. Some conditions, such as autism and ADHD, may make it more difficult for people to follow social distancing guidelines and wear a mask.

In Detroit, advocates have contacted the mayor’s office and local media to bring awareness to the challenges that people with disabilities face when avoiding infection or getting COVID-19 treatment.

“People with disabilities are being left out of COVID vaccine rollouts and being left out of data collection when somebody contracts COVID, and that leads to disparities,” Dessa Cosma, executive director of Detroit Disability Power, told NBC News.

On Feb. 11, Mike Duggan, the mayor of Detroit, announced that all residents age 18 and older with intellectual and developmental disabilities could receive a vaccine, along with their caregivers. He specifically named several conditions — Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, Tourette syndrome, ADHD, and hearing and vision impairments.

The broad definition is helpful to prevent “some very marginalized people from falling through the cracks,” Cosma said.

Other cities and states have prioritized some conditions, such as Down syndrome, which has been more definitively linked to higher COVID-19 infections and deaths. CDC guidelines recommend that people with Down syndrome should receive vaccine priority.

Some states have also prioritized people with developmental and intellectual disabilities who live in group homes. Delaware, Missouri, New York, and Ohio have included people with disabilities among their priority lists, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, though they don’t specifically list conditions such as ADHD, or visual and hearing impairments.

“In medical terms, blindness itself might not be considered something that would put you at a heightened risk for COVID,” Justice Shorter, the disaster protection adviser for the National Disability Rights Network, told NBC News.

However, people with visual impairments may rely on others to drive them or direct them, and they may not be able to see whether someone who helps them is wearing a mask.

“You have to consider the ways in which you maneuver through society,” she said.

WebMD Health News Brief


NBC News, “Detroit's Covid vaccination queue is one of first to include people with ADHD, other disabilities.”
Disability and Health Journal, “Intellectual and developmental disability and COVID-19 case-fatality trends: TriNetX analysis.”
City of Detroit, “City adds disabled residents, home health care providers to list of groups eligible for vaccinations.”
CDC, “COVID-19: People with Certain Medical Conditions.”
Kaiser Family Foundation, “The Next Phase of Vaccine Distribution: High-Risk Medical Conditions.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.