Vaccine clinics planned for Iowans with disabilities

By: - September 2, 2021 4:23 pm

Gov. Kim Reynolds this week said vaccinations are one of Iowa’s best tools in turning back the pandemic. (Photo by Parker Michels-Boyce/ Virginia Mercury)

Disability Rights Iowa is staging two vaccine clinics geared specifically to people with disabilities.

People with disabilities face higher risks related to COVID-19 than the general population. A study published in March by researchers at Thomas Jefferson University looked at more than 64 million patients and found that having an intellectual disability was the single strongest independent risk factor for contracting the virus. Intellectually disabled people who are hospitalized with the virus are also six times more likely to die than non-disabled COVID patients, the study found.

Disability Rights Iowa, a privately run but congressionally chartered organization that advocates for people with disabilities, is now working on plans for two vaccine clinics that will be aimed specifically at this population.

The first, scheduled for Sept. 15, will be held in conjunction with the Make Your Mark conference for people with disabilities that is planned for the Marriott Hotel in West Des Moines. The second clinic is scheduled for Sept. 25 at the Hills and Dales Community Center in Dubuque.

People with any type of disability may participate in the vaccine clinic.

The West Des Moines conference’s keynote speaker is Michael Kutcher, the brother of Iowa-born actor Ashton Kutcher. Michael has cerebral palsy and has been involved with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation’s recent awareness efforts.

“Right now, they have 150 people registered to attend, and they’re from all over the state of Iowa,” said DRI Executive Director Catherine Johnson. “And these will be individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities who will be attending.”

The conference is the work of the Developmental Disabilities Council, and the Polk County Public Health Department will be assisting DRI and the council in the staging of the vaccine clinic, which will be operating outside the hotel in a tented area from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 15.

Participants won’t have to attend the conference to take advantage of the vaccine clinic, Johnson said, but information will be disseminated as to individuals’ rights as they relate to both the vaccine and to clinic access.

The Dubuque clinic is being staged in conjunction with a training session on individuals’ rights as they relate to special education. It is scheduled to be operating from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 25.

The Dubuque event is sponsored by DRI, the Dubuque County Public Health Department, the Dubuque County Visiting Nurses Association, Dubuque County Emergency Management, and Dubuque County Mental Health and Disabilities Services.

Both clinics will be fully accessible, so participants won’t have to ask for special accommodations. A sign-language interpreter will be on hand, and written materials related to the vaccine will be available in multiple formats, including printed versions in Braille and large type, as well as an electronic version on a computer flash-drive.

Johnson said that while many Iowa counties have relatively low vaccination rates, the Dallas County clinic can take advantage of the expected large turnout for the upcoming conference, and Dubuque County fits well with DRI’s effort to reach outside of central Iowa and connect with people in each corner of the state.

“And I know that the community transmission rates for COVID are really high up in Dubuque and they’re just getting higher every day, so it just seems like a really good location,” she said. “My hope is to maybe do another one of these types of events, but so far these are the only two we have scheduled.”

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.

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