COVID-19 Vaccines and Masking Guidance

Authored by: Tracy Waller, Esq., MPH; With contribution by: Tiffany Banks, MSW, LCSW

Schools that do not require masking fail to meet the needs of children with disabilities

Based on the rise of the delta variant of COVID-19, and the increasing number of breakthrough infections, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its masking guidance on July 27, 2021. The CDC continues to recommend that people ages 2 and older and those who are not fully vaccinated should wear a mask in indoor public places. In addition, the CDC guidance recommends that fully vaccinated people should wear a mask indoors in public in areas of substantial or high transmission

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Addressing Current Gaps in the Provision of Prenatal Testing to Improve Patient Support and Present Disabilities More Equitably

Between June 6-June 8, 2021, the Prenatal Subcommittee of the Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities presented a poster about “Addressing Current Gaps in the Provision of Prenatal Testing to Improve Patient Support and Present Disabilities More Equitably” during the virtual gathering of the 25th International Conference on Prenatal Diagnosis and Therapy.
The poster was prepared by prenatal subcommittee members, Stephanie Meredith, Scotti Brackett, Nikki Watson, and Dr. Marsha Michie. Check out the poster below to learn more about the prenatal themes from the Gap Analysis:

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It is Time to Let Go of the QALY’s Legacy of Discrimination

Kelly Israel, Policy Analyst, Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Sara van Geertruyden, Executive Director, Partnership to Improve Patient Care

People with disabilities are consistently told they are too expensive to treat when compared to other groups. A metric of determining cost effectiveness of treatments and health services called the quality-adjusted life year (QALY) is yet another tool to make that argument on a larger scale. The QALY is often used to compare the benefits and costs of healthcare interventions. Cost effectiveness analyses based on the QALY are largely developed with intent for their use by insurers and payers to inform the treatments and services that may or may not be covered or subjected to utilization management practices. Advocates have long pushed for consideration of better metrics by payers that reflect the priorities of patients and people with disabilities, hoping to reduce hurdles to appropriate and timely care. As advocates work to understand how the concept of value is defined and used by states and health systems, it is imperative to understand why the QALY metric is discriminatory.  

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Does it matter that the COVID-19 Vaccine is for Emergency Use Authorization Only and not Full-FDA Approval?

By Tracy Waller

The History of Vaccines

Vaccinations are recommended for children from birth. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)develops recommendations on the use of vaccines, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sets U.S. adult and childhood vaccinations schedules based on those recommendations.[1] Before leaving the hospital or birthing center, a baby receives the first of three doses of the vaccine that protects against Hepatitis B. Starting at one to two months of age, babies receive six different vaccines: Hepatatis B (second dose), Diptheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (pertussis) (DTaP), Haemophilus influezae type b (Hib), Polio (IPV), Pneumococcal (PCV), and Rotavirus (RV). 

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Vaccine Allocation Confusion

Are Vaccines Even Accessible?

Tracy Waller, Esq., MPH, is an attorney with the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities (MCDD) at Kennedy Krieger Institute as part of the MCDD’s grant to develop a Center for Dignity in Healthcare for people with Disabilities (CDHPD).

Vaccine Prioritization Decisions

If you are confused about the vaccine allocation priority groups in your county or state, you are not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is providing recommendations to federal, state, and local governments about who should be vaccinated first. The CDC’s recommendations are based on those from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), an independent panel of medical and public health experts. The ACIP’s vaccine allocation recommendations aim to: (1) decrease death and serious disease as much as possible, (2) preserve functioning of society, and (3) reduce the extra burden COVID-19 is having on people already facing disparities. 

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Blog with us!

The Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities invites your blog submissions.

General Submission Guidelines

  • We are looking for submissions about healthcare inequities faced by people with disabilities and proposed solutions to make healthcare more equitable. We want posts that will educate, inform, empower, and challenge people to think in new ways.
  • We are open for submissions year-round.
  • Guest blog posts are usually between 500 and 1,000 words. Please include a short bio and a photograph with your submission.
  • The Center for Dignity team may work with you to edit your blog. Our publication schedule varies. Please allow at least one week between submission and proposed publication date.
  • Authors and photographers have rights. Please credit others’ work in your submission and cite our blog if you republish.
  • Following publication, we will share your blog post via Facebook, Twitter, and our newsletter.


We are committed to accessibility. Please use alt-text and captions for images. Do your best to write in plain-language. We will only post videos that are captioned.

How to Submit

Send your 500-to 100-word posts with a suggested title wo [email protected]. Include a brief bio, picture with image description, and social media accounts that you’d like to share.

Steps to Develop a Disability Advocacy Response to Vaccine Roll-Out Plans

family photo of Stephanie Meredith and her husband and 3 children
Stephanie Meredith is the author and co-author of multiple resources for new and expectant parents who receive a diagnosis of Down syndrome or other genetic disabilities. Ms. Meredith leads the Center for Dignity’s Prenatal Diagnosis Subcommittee. Ms. Meredith shares her advocacy letter to Georgia state leadership as an example for other advocates who would like to ensure people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have equitable access to vaccines.
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Statement on the Death of Michael Hickson

The Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities mourns the death of Michael Hickson, a 46-year-old man, husband, and father of five. Mr. Hickson was a Black man who acquired spinal cord and brain injuries in 2017 after a sudden cardiac arrest. Like so many in our country ravaged by the current pandemic, Mr. Hickson sought care from his local hospital for treatment for COVID-19. He had contracted COVID-19 from a staff member of a nursing home. Mr. Hickson was denied treatment based on the belief that treatment would not improve his quality of life. 

Mr. Hickson’s wife, Melissa, recorded and posted a video of the doctor explaining why care was denied. An unidentified doctor is heard saying, “So as of right now his quality of life, he doesn’t have much of one.”

Melissa asked, “What do you mean? Because he’s paralyzed with a brain injury he doesn’t have a quality of life?” The doctor responded, “Correct.”

The Hickson family’s tragic loss places a spotlight on the false conclusion that life with a disability isn’t one of quality. The Office for Civil Rights released a memo in March 2020 stating, “Persons with disabilities should not be denied medical care on the basis of stereotypes, assessments of quality of life, or judgements about a person’s relative “worth” based on the presence or absence of disabilities or age.” Despite this clarification of civil rights in healthcare settings, these inequities persist; in this case and others, they cost the lives of Americans with disabilities.

The Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities was founded to correct the misconception that there is not value or dignity in life with a disability. Mr. Hickson was a cherished husband, father, and person. We denounce the denial of care, during this pandemic and always, explicitly on the basis of disability and the biased belief that a life with a disability is not worth living. We call for more just and culturally competent healthcare for all Americans, including those with disabilities.  

For more information on how to join the Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities in the fight against medical discrimination and ableism, email [email protected]. Learn more about your rights during COVID-19 here.