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Some MI Disability Rights Advocates Call Vaccine Rollout Inadequate

Steven Cornfield via Unsplash

Starting Monday, Michiganders age 16 and older with disabilities or certain medical conditions will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Breannah Alexander Oppenhuizen is with the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition. She said little has been done at the state level to ensure prompt access to the vaccine for these vulnerable communities.

“We're seeing even in trying to register people in the places where we can actually get them registered, they're not getting appointments until into the May, June appointment slots," she said.

Alexander Oppenhuizen said it’s also been difficult to register people with disabilities, and those who speak a language other than English for a vaccine slot.

“So for us to be now a year from the initial discovery of the COVID virus, and to still be so behind in planning for the most vulnerable communities," she said. "It's startling, and something that we need to discuss further."

The Michigan Disablity Rights Coalition has been raising these concerns with the state since December.

"Little planning is being done, and ultimately commerce is being prioritized in the vaccine distribution and the people," Alexander Oppenhuizen explained.

If commerce wasn't being prioritized, Alexander Oppenhuizen said there would have been more planning from the state to address issues like transportation access to a vaccine appointment for those with disablities.

"So there was concern about if people use Spec-Tran to get to [their] appointment, am I going to have issues getting to my appointment on time?," she said. "There are small, localized issues that could have been dealt with better have they been heard by the institutions who have the ability to set priorities."

Alexander Oppenhuizen said the decentralized nature of vaccine distribution, from scheduling to administering the vaccine, creates a series of challenges for communities vulnerable to the virus. 

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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