Toronto, ON – Inclusion Canada joins the International Disability Alliance in calling on all levels of government to include people with developmental disabilities, their families and support staff as a priority withing the early vaccine rollout phases.

Public health authorities and governments are starting to prioritize the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to people across the country in terms of their level of risk and role in supporting high risk populations. While this brings hope for an eventual return to normal, it also raises questions about when high risk groups such as people with disabilities, their families and support staff will receive the vaccine. 

“This is a matter of scientific fact,” says Robin Acton, President of Inclusion Canada. “Studies have definitively proven that COVID-19 presents a dire and life-threatening risk to people with developmental disabilities. While governments have rightfully prioritized people who live and work in long term care homes, they must similarly ensure people with developmental disabilities, many of whom live at home supported by their families or in residences where they are supported by staff, receive priority access to the vaccine to prevent further illness and death.” 

Recent studies out of the United Kingdom and other countries clearly illustrate that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are more susceptible than the general population to COVID-19 and suffer more severe outcomes including death rates.  For instance, people with Down syndrome are 4 times more likely to be hospitalized and 10 times more likely to die as a result of COVID-19. The virus is also more life-threatening at younger ages and for people with comorbidities, posing a heightened risk for people with disabilities of all ages. Other jurisdictions, such as the UK and Australia, have recognized this science and rightfully prioritized persons with disabilities and their support by including them in the first phases of vaccine rollouts. Canada needs to do so now. 

People with a disability are also more likely to live at home with family members or in congregate care settings than the general population. They are at increased risk of exposure because of their daily interactions with family members and support staff who are essential to their well-being. Government must ensure access extends not just to people with disabilities, but to their families who provide support at home and in-home support staff as well. 

“All levels of government have a responsibility to ensure priority access to the vaccine for people with disabilities and their support networks,” says Krista Carr, Executive Vice President of Inclusion Canada. “People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are always at risk of being forgotten. We’ve seen this play out time and again during the pandemic through discriminatory triage protocols and limited access to necessary supports in hospitals. Vaccine rollouts cannot be more of the same.”

Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), Canada has a legal obligation to uphold Article 11, which states that governments must take “all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities” during a humanitarian emergency.  It is incumbent upon the federal, provincial and territorial levels of government to ensure their obligations under the CRPD are upheld and respected.    

It is commonly said that Covid-19 does not discriminate; neither must our governments.  Inclusion Canada calls upon all levels of government to ensure the rightful inclusion of individuals with developmental disabilities, their families and support staff as priority populations in the early stages of vaccine rollouts across Canada.

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Media Contact: Marc Muschler, Senior Communications Officer, Inclusion Canada,

Inclusion Canada is a national federation of 13 provincial-territorial associations and over 300 local associations working to advance the full inclusion and human rights of people with an intellectual disability and their families. We lead the way in building an inclusive Canada by strengthening families, defending rights, and transforming communities into places where everyone belongs.