Workers who support people with developmental disabilities are breathing a sigh of relief, following word late this week that they are now a priority to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“They are very relieved both for themselves and for the people we support,” Doug Tennant, CEO of UNITI – a partnership of societies, including Semiahoo House Society, that provide services and supports for people with disabilities and their families – told Peace Arch News of reaction to word received late Thursday (April 8).
Tennant spoke out earlier this week about concerns with the group – many of whom provide close personal care for people who are unable to wear masks – being left off the priority list that was announced by government and health officials last month. He took to social media about it on Monday (April 5) to highlight the “oversight,” then elaborated to PAN the following morning.
“Government and Fraser Health either doesn’t understand the work that direct-support workers do… or they believe that those employees are being vaccinated as healthcare workers, which is not true,” he said Tuesday (April 6).
He said there were around 150 direct-support workers who were simply having to wait until their age group was called, and that it was “not a good situation,” especially given that many of the people being supported were also still waiting for letters that would enable them to book priority appointments as “clinically extremely vulnerable.”
Friday (April 9), Tennant said those letters have now also started to arrive.
He credited news of the bump up in vaccine priority for the Community Living B.C.-funded workers to factors including that “lots of people” were working to make it happen. It “didn’t hurt,” he added, that other regions had included CLBC-funded staff as priority workers from the get-go.
Going public with the concerns, he added, “allowed people to think about a group of people that historically have been marginalized and to consider if their treatment during the pandemic measured up to the treatment of all other citizens.”
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