Disabled community gets new tools to access vaccines

A recent CDC study shows those with disabilities are more likely to support the COVID-19...
A recent CDC study shows those with disabilities are more likely to support the COVID-19 vaccines but have a lower vaccination rate.(Storyblocks)
Published: Feb. 18, 2022 at 2:51 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 18, 2022 at 6:22 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Alex Jackson suffered a serious car crash as an infant that caused irreparable damage to his spine and left him in a wheelchair.

Despite his injuries, Jackson forged his own destiny as an adult, working in communications and finding his voice in sharing the experiences of the disabled community.

Getting from place to place, Jackson utilizes a custom minivan which he boards using a ramp controlled by a pad on his wheelchair. He drives it using a joystick. In this way he’s achieved the freedom to get from place to place, but it wasn’t always that way.

“It took a lot more scheduling. Relying on family member or friends to take me where I need to go,” Jackson said. “We have to work as a community to make sure that people can get the medications they need, the vaccines they need.”

Jackson says access is especially important when it comes to life saving vaccines like the COVID-19 shots.

A recent CDC study shows those with disabilities are more likely to support the COVID-19 vaccines but have a lower vaccination rate. That same study shows people with a disability are also more likely to say getting a vaccine is more difficult.

“The ability to get to a vaccination clinic can be difficult, especially if you have some limited abilities and challenges to get to and from appointments,” Jackson said. “I decided to get vaccinated because of my experience of living with a disability. . . not only for my protection but to help those who help take care for me as well.”

Access is always a challenge for those with disabilities, especially those with mobility issues. It’s a concern Able SC, a disability advocacy group in South Carolina, has been drawing attention to since before the COVID-19 shots were even rolled out.

Earlier this week Able SC and its partners rolled out a new tool for helping those with a disability. It’s called the SC Disability Vaccine Access Network and it’s funded through the Department of Health and Environmental Control and the US Department of Health and Human Services. The network can help people with disabilities schedule vaccination appointments and even get them transportation.

“The access network also really does a great job with eliminating the barriers for people with disabilities including paying for transportation to get the vaccine, ensuring that there’s accommodations in place such as American Sign Language interpreters, plain language and Braille and other effective communication mesh measures,” said Kimberly Tissot, president and chief executive officer of Able SC.

The network is not just there to help schedule appointments and aid in transportation, it’s also a one stop destination for clearing up misinformation and advocacy. They’re also arranging mobile vaccination clinics.

“People with disabilities are at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 and potentially dying,” Tissot said. “With our large population in South Carolina of people with disabilities, which is one in three people in South Carolina, we’ve got to make sure that we’re doing all we can to save lives.”

“I think it’s wonderful to have this tool,” Jackson said. “The partnership that Able SC has had with the state and other partners have really made it more effective in making sure those resources are available to everyone.”

The network is accessible one here or by phone at 1-800-787-6046.

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