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Helping individuals with disabilities get COVID-19 vaccines

Mar 5, 2021

Clients of Empowering People's Independence (EPI) take part in a UR Medicine COVID-19 vaccination clinic on March 3, 2021 at the EPI building in Rochester.
Credit provided photo

It's been tough for a lot of people to get  a COVID-19 vaccine - with challenges like finding out where it’s available and getting an appointment and even determining whether you are eligible to get the shot.

Having a disability can make the process even more complex.

Allison Jaynes says she’s frustrated by being cooped up a lot of the time. The 36-year-old from Penfield has a neurological disability. She lives with her family and normally gets support from staffers at agencies that include EPI, which stands for Empowering People’s Independence.

But, with the pandemic, they have not been able to come to her home. While Jaynes has been able to do some outside activities, there are a number of other programs she just can’t take part in right now.

"I’ve been pretty much housebound; a lot of my staff quit because they didn’t want any…as little exposure as possible to everybody and they’re kind of my wheels for the most part, I can’t drive," Jaynes says. "And a lot of places are shut down anyway."

That’s why both Jaynes and her mother were thrilled that this week, a UR Medicine COVID-19 vaccination clinic was held at the EPI building. Jaynes' mom, Hilary, says both of them were able to get the first dose of the vaccine.

"We’ll feel more comfortable going out and about. I haven’t even allowed Allison to wear a mask and go into a grocery store, because I didn’t even want to take a chance that she would come down with anything," Hilary says.

(From left to right: Hilary, Kirk and Allison Jaynes (and service dog Elliot)
Credit provided photo

Jody Ostrander of Dalton, Livingston County, has three children on the Autism spectrum. She says that one of her sons was also glad he could get that vaccine at the special clinic.

"It’s just one step closer to being protected," Ostrander says. "He was so excited that he actually let them put the stickers on that he got vaccinated and normally, even when he votes, he doesn’t let them put stickers on him,".

Jeff Sinsebox, president and CEO of EPI, says he realizes that getting the COVID-19 vaccine can be a life-changing event for many people with disabilities.

“When the pandemic hit, it put a lot of people with significant disabilities, it sort of put their lives on hold, their socialization, and other things, and really became kind of shut-ins or closed off," Sinsebox says.

Small clinics held at his agency’s campus is a much more comfortable place to get the vaccines for many of their clients, he says, rather than a large clinic with thousands of people.

UR Medicine and EPI both hope to hold additional vaccination clinics for individuals with disabilities in the future.

This story was produced by WXXI's Inclusion Desk, focusing on disabilities and inclusion.