February 10, 2021
Dear Minister Elliott,
We are writing to you regarding the government’s vaccination plan and the prioritization of at-risk people with disabilities. In particular, we are seeking greater clarity on when and how Ontario plans to immunize adults with disabilities living in congregate care, and people with chronic conditions living at home who do not receive home care services through their LHIN.
Recently, supportive housing providers have written asking why congregate care settings for adults with physical and developmental disabilities are not included in phase one. One such housing provider, Participation House, notes that their Markham home saw 40 out of its 42 residents infected with COVID-19. The facility was under a state of emergency, and faced shortages of both staff and PPE.
Disability rights advocates, including Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, have also pointed to the government’s own ethical framework for vaccine distribution, which lays out criteria to help guide how different groups are prioritized. They note that phase one immunization of supportive housing residents & workers, and people living at home with chronic conditions & their caregivers fits within the framework’s criteria.
In addition, some public health authorities have made the decision to include supportive housing residents in their first phase of immunization. In so doing, they recognize the vulnerability of these facilities, their residents and workers, to COVID-19 outbreaks.
To this end, will the Ministry of Health consider issuing guidance to all public health units regarding the vaccination of adults with disabilities and frontline workers in supportive housing? In addition, will consideration be made for those with chronic conditions and their caregivers who do not receive LHIN home care services?
Minister, people with disabilities, especially those living in congregate care settings and with chronic conditions, are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and being severely impacted by it. It is vital that your government provides greater clarity and assurance of where they stand in the prioritization of Ontario’s vaccine distribution plan.
We look forward to hearing from you.
[pdf version signed]
Joel Harden, MPP for Ottawa Centre
Critic, Accessibility & Persons with Disabilities
France Gélinas, MPP for Nickel Belt