For the Disabled, Getting Vaccinated Can Be an Obstacle Course

The early days of the vaccination program were particularly difficult. “When the rollout first happened, we were fortunate to be in the prioritized group,” said Ilene Margolin, a consultant at the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, the largest social services nonprofit in New York City, offering residential and non-residential programs catering to more than 1,200 people with severe mental and developmental illness. “But the way the rollout was designed, it turned out that only certain kinds of health centers were qualified to do the vaccines for our population, and we had to transport our people there. So one of our biggest challenges was just the logistics of it.”

The Jewish Board eventually paired up with specialty pharmacists who came to its residences and administered the vaccinations. “The city’s health department did a really fantastic job of connecting us to private pharmacies, who were asked to prioritize specialized populations and agencies like our own,” said Bridget McBrien, who is responsible for the vaccination response and government relations at The Jewish Board. “So instead of us trying to navigate the city and state websites, we can just schedule pharmacists to come out to work on location, which really then gets around the accessibility issues.” She added that most of the pharmacists were able to accept consent in different ways, including paperwork in Braille or American Sign Language.

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