Joel Harden MPP / Député, Ottawa Centre

Government of Ontario

MPP Harden calls for prioritization of people with disabilities for COVID-19 vaccination

Published on March 15, 2021

MPP Joel Harden, Official Opposition Disabilities critic calls for prioritization of people with disabilities for COVID-19 vaccination 

OTTAWA — Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden, the Official Opposition critic for Accessibility & Persons with Disabilities, is calling on the government to ​include people with disabilities ​in Phase 2 of Ontario’s vaccine rollout.
“The government should have placed people with disabilities on their priority list for vaccinations from the start,” said Harden.  “Their ​failure to do so is putting lives at risk, and their​ lack of ​investment in a plan to remove any and all obstacles for people with disabilities trying to access their vaccination is a serious problem.”
Dr. Melanie Bechard, a CHEO physician and master's student in public health with Johns Hopkins University, has produced a new research report on behalf of Harden’s office, where she works as a practicum student. Her report,​ "Prioritizing People with Disabilities for COVID-19 Vaccination in Ontario" shows a greater risk of COVID infection, complications and death among people with disabilities, and calls for prioritizing people with disabilities for COVID-19 vaccinations. 
Dr. Bechard’s report makes four recommendations, which clinical experts have endorsed:

  1. Disability must be recognized as a factor that significantly increases a person’s risk of COVID-19 infection, complications, and death. Disability should be taken into account when decisions about COVID-19 vaccine prioritization are being made.
  2. People with disabilities should be explicitly mentioned within Phase 2 of the vaccination rollout to ensure consistent practices across the province.
  3. COVID-19 vaccination must be accessible to people of all abilities. People with disabilities should not face barriers in scheduling or receiving vaccination.
  4. The Ontario Ministry of Health should collect data on the number of COVID-19 infections, complications, and deaths among people with disabilities in the province.

“Stronger action is needed to ensure that regional decision-making regarding the vaccination rollout remains consistent throughout the Province in understanding the significant heightened risk facing persons with disabilities, addressing barriers and inaccessibility immediately, and ensuring that all persons with disabilities at risk have access to vaccines.” - Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director, ARCH Disability Law Centre

"Dr. Bechard's report confirms what I have seen in my own practice: people with physical and intellectual disabilities have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring accessibility of the COVID-19 vaccine for this population is an urgent public health issue." - Dr. Danielle Bourque, ​MSc, MD, FRCPC, FCCMG, Clinical & Biochemical Geneticist, CHEO, University of Ottawa

“Spinal Cord Injury Ontario is pleased that the NDP is bringing this to the attention of the government and the regional health units; it supports concerns that we have shared with the Ministry of Health and other public health authorities throughout the province. Greater clarity is needed as the current plan does not explicitly identify people with disabilities as a high-risk group. We urge the Ontario Government to prioritize a consistent approach of vaccine distribution that takes into account the critical health and accessibility needs of people with disabilities.” - Peter Athanasopoulos, Director, Public Policy at Spinal Cord Injury Ontario