Last Monday folks all over the state were getting ready to take a peek at the light at the end of the tunnel. Last Monday was the day that the Lamont administration was set to announce that residents with pre-existing conditions and co-morbidities would be eligible to get in line for a COVID vaccination.
And frontline workers who have navigated this plague with courage, care, and hope were going to finally be able to shed the shackles that have been placed on them by the virus and taste a bit of life with less fear.
Connecticut has been a forerunner of national efficiency in delivering the vaccine into arms of its residents. All of us have benefitted to date from the our collective efforts to limit the transfer of the disease. Liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans – each of us have worn our masks and kept our distance. We have taken the reasonable precautions promoted by the doctors and scientists and the vast majority of us thankfully have muddled through.
When the books are written about the lives we have led over the last 15 months, Connecticut will likely stand out as a state that got it right.
And, in the end, it may turn out that the Governor got it right last Monday, too. But man, it was a punch in the gut for those who were patiently and anxiously awaiting their chances to rid themselves of the fear.
The decision prioritizes vaccines based on age; shortly after the Governor made his decision, the first legal claim was filed. And that interests me.
The claim was filed by a non-profit organization called Disability Rights Connecticut with the federal Department of Health and Human Services. The organization has demanded that the Department’s Office of Civil Rights order Connecticut to revise its vaccination policy to prioritize folks with underlying medical conditions, regardless of age, who are at increased risk of infection.
The CDC has recommended that individuals with medical conditions that put them at greater risk and essential workers get the vaccine ahead of middle aged people. The Lamont administration has countered that 95 percent of deaths from COVID have occurred in the over-55 population.
One of the concerns raised by the non-profit is that the new policy is not completely age-based because it makes exceptions to prioritize teachers and child care workers. If indeed the age-based process is the right way to do this, then there would be no need for professional exceptions.
The complaint asserts that the policy should also make exceptions for “qualified individuals with disabilities” in order to comply with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Under the ADA, it is unlawful for the state to use “eligibility criteria that tend to screen out individuals with disabilities” or that fail to “make reasonable modifications to policies and practices necessary to avoid discrimination.”
From my review of the claim and the law, I doubt the action will be successful. By its own provisions, the vaccination policy limits eligibility currently to folks over the age of 55 who otherwise do not fall within an exceptional group. Individuals with disabilities who are not otherwise eligible under the policy are not obliged to be granted eligibility simply by virtue of their disabilities.
While I think the policy is harsh, and its implementation was mishandled, I am not sure that the legal action against it will be successful.