COVID-19 vaccinations have begun in New York State for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) that live in residences and the staff members who support them. Thanks to early and effective advocacy efforts, which are continuing, AHRC New York City’s group home residents and Direct Support Professionals were among the first people to be vaccinated, giving them protection from a virus that proved to be deadly for many living in congregate care settings. The first AHRC NYC vaccinations began on January 11th.

Advocacy for People with I/DD

On December 22nd, Governor Cuomo announced that people living in congregate care settings and the staff members who work directly with them would receive priority for the limited COVID-19 vaccine resources currently available.

We clearly were able to work together with his office and we are currently working through all the logistics to be able to get the vaccine to individuals in all 62 counties in New York state,” said Tom McAlvanah, the president of the New York Disabilities Advocates.

The work is not done. New groups are regularly becoming eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, which is why we continue to fight for the inclusion of all people with I/DD in Phase 1 of the State’s vaccination plan.

Earlier this week, The Arc New York launched a state-wide grassroots campaign, to advocate directly with state and federal representatives on this issue. Over the past several days, nearly 1,000 advocates have participated, generating over 5,400 connections with their elected leaders. spread the word to your family and friend in New York by following this link, provide your information, and the letter will be sent right to your representative’s email. Share the campaign on social media to spread the word to other advocates after you send your message.

Information from Experts

Dr. Sheryl White-Scott, Medical Director at AHRC NYC’s Dickson Goodman Apartments and the Senior Medical Consultant for our organization, hosted a seminar for AHRC NYC staff members to helped them make an informed choice about getting vaccinated. Dr. White-Scott was joined by Dr. Gina Brown, Principal Medical Scientist of the HIV Prevention Medical Sciences Team – East, Gilead Sciences. Dr. David Kaufman, AHRC NYC’s new Medical Director, was on hand to provide input. Both Dr. White-Scott and Dr. Brown are Black women who have cared for patients with and without I/DD for decades.

Dr. Sheryl White Scott and Dr. Gina Brown gave a presentatino to AHRC NYC staff.To be direct, yes, I plan to take the vaccine,” Dr. White-Scott said. “I would not ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. The vaccine is NOT mandated. We are making an informed decision.

Dr. Brown went over the history of the COVID-19 virus and then transitioned into describing how it can ravage the body through high fever, cough, severe body aches, neurological complications, gastrointestinal distress, and more. Critically, the disease can be contagious before symptoms begin, while some people never develop symptoms but can still spread it. Both doctors emphasized that the prevalence of asymptomatic spread is why social distancing, mask-wearing, and frequent handwashing remain so important.

The doctors then discussed the vaccine, its safety and efficacy, and any potential side effects. The two distributors are Pfizer and Moderna, but people are encouraged to take whichever vaccine is available to them. Both vaccines, after two shots, are expected to provide 95% protection from the virus. Side effects include sore arm and, for some, flu-like symptoms, but many people have said they feel no side effects at all. Allergic reactions are rare, and people are required to stay near medical professionals for up to a half-hour after receiving a shot to ensure they do not experience a reaction.

AHRC NYC will continue to provide more information about its vaccination efforts in the coming weeks and months.