California health officials are now requiring that people who work in medical settings be fully immunized against COVID-19. That includes employees of hospitals, nursing homes, doctors’ offices, clinics and other medical facilities. But it doesn’t include in-home care workers.
Advocates for people with disabilities say workers who provide services to vulnerable patients should also be required to get their shots.
“People with disabilities are now back at home, we’re now living in fear once again, and we want to make sure that the people who support us in our homes, in the community, our therapists, anybody who supports us directly, gets vaccinated,” said Judy Mark, president of Disability Voices United.
In late July, Gov. Gavin Newsom told people working in hospitals, nursing homes, adult day care centers and other settings that they could either be immunized or submit to testing at least once a week. On Aug. 5, he issued a new order removing the testing option. Health care workers now need to be vaccinated unless they file a religious or medical exemption form.
Disability rights groups are calling on Newsom to expand the mandate.
People with developmental disabilities who contract COVID-19 face a fatality risk about three times higher than the general population.
Often, these patients interact with multiple caregivers on a daily or weekly basis.
“The fight hasn’t stopped,” said Tim Jin, an Orange County resident living with cerebral palsy. “The new delta variant has become even more dangerous and even more frightening, and people like me continue to be at greater risk even if we’ve been vaccinated.”
Rick Wood, a Mammoth Lakes parent whose son has a developmental disability, said he was so worried about their caregiver staff that he started offering a financial bonus to unvaccinated workers so they would get immunized. Nonprofit programs for people with disabilities may also be able to help families offer this incentive, advocates said.
“Care providers who come into the home provide intimate care, such as feeding, dressing, bathing and the like,” Wood said. “They are no different from health care workers who are performing similar duties and providing similar services in hospitals and medical facilities.”
The SEIU Local 2015 Union represents long-term care workers, including those who visit clients’ homes. They said they don’t oppose the mandate, as long as employers make vaccines available in geographically convenient locations and provide paid time off for vaccine appointments.
The state has not announced whether they’ll extend the mandate to home caregivers.
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