DRA can help you get access to the vaccine – call our toll-free number at (800) 482-1174. Vaccines are available across the state, free of charge. The Arkansas Department of Health can even send a pharmacist to your home to give you the vaccine, if transportation is an issue.
Tonight on Speak Up Arkansas on KABF 88.3 FM, Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, the state epidemiologist for the Arkansas Department of Health, will join us to answer many commonly asked questions about the vaccine. Listen in tonight at 5 p.m. on 88.3 FM, livestream the show on kabf.org, or check it out on our website – we always post our shows after they air! You can find all our Speak Up Arkansas broadcasts here.
We asked DRA advocate Mollie Hernandez, who is blind, to help shed some light on vaccine hesitancy that prevents some people with disabilities from getting the COVID vaccine. Here are some of her thoughts.
As an Arkansan who is blind, I know what it is like to navigate unforeseen challenges. For that matter, all of us who live with disability or chronic illness are pretty good at expecting the unexpected. However, the global Covid-19 pandemic has tested us all.
In a matter of weeks, we as Arkansans have gone from our lowest case rates to record breaking highs in hospitalizations from the Delta variant. Our healthcare system is stressed. Our schools are starting back. Our communities are divided.
This post is not to debate, or even opine on, vaccines or masks. These words are to simply encourage understanding and informed decision making. If you are reading this, you are most likely a part of our disability community. Although you may feel marginalized, you are an important thread in the fabric of our state. Your actions can impact others as we navigate the newest challenges of this pandemic.
Fortunately, vaccines are widely available across the state for those who want them. Still, people may not know that there are still some reasons why some people with disabilities are still reluctant to be vaccinated. This is just my perspective, as a person living with a disability and who works with people with disabilities every day.
A common misconception surrounding those of us with disabilities is that we are overly sensitive to our health and keep our doctors on speed dial. True, some conditions must be closely monitored, which means we might have frequent medical visits. Sometimes, frankly, medical fatigue sets in, and we might avoid visiting the doctor for other things.
Transportation alone can be a significant barrier. Many of us need to arrange for another person to accompany us for personal care assistance, or to navigate an unfamiliar environment.
Although the Governor announced increased reimbursement to physicians providing the vaccine to Medicaid recipients, some may be fearful of associated costs*. People with disabilities are much more likely to live below the poverty rate, so any additional expenses are avoided.
Then, of course, is the tsunami of misinformation that contributes to overall vaccine hesitancy. Questions abound**, but answers are inconsistent: Could we be compounding an existing condition by taking the vaccine? How will the vaccine interact with current medications or treatments the person is taking?
What is weighing on me now is the lack of beds/staffing for people with chronic diseases/disabilities that are more likely to need treatment for these conditions. For instance, I know I am more likely to experience a physical injury through an accident because of my blindness. If that were to happen now, how and where could I seek treatment. I’m vaccinated, but it’s an additional worry and I’m being extra cautious.
I have a strong support system (both family and friends) that minimize barriers for me on a daily basis. I know I can be a hassle or even somewhat burdensome, as I use their assistance to accomplish daily life activities. The thing that never changes with my “village” is they let me know I’m worth it. For those without a support system, they need to know they are worth whatever it takes to keep them healthy.
Finally, I think visibility is key. I know I felt more comfortable taking the vaccine after a number of family and friends had no adverse reactions from the vaccine. I feel like the disability community is no different. When you see people with disabilities doing big things, it’s a motivator.
If you need information on where to get a vaccine, we can help. If you have questions surrounding the vaccine, DRA’s upcoming radio show can answer your questions.
Are you experiencing other barriers to the vaccine related to your disability? Let us know.
Please take care of yourselves.
*NOTE: Call DRA at (800) 482-1174 for help getting access to the vaccine, free of charge.