Gov. Ned Lamont gets his first COVID vaccine shot. (CTNewsjunkie file)

Disability Rights of Connecticut filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights Thursday challenging Gov. Ned Lamont’s decision not to put people with underlying medical conditions first in line for the vaccine. 

“Connecticut’s new policy has apparently been developed in the belief that it would be easier to administer.  But merely because it may be easier does not make it right.  And this policy is not only an outlier nationally, it blatantly disregards CDC policy guidelines, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the rights of individuals with disabilities,” Deborah Dorfman, executive director of Disability Rights Connecticut, said. 

On Monday Lamont said state officials determined, after talking with healthcare professionals, that the state plan that had been in place was “really complicated,” adding that “we think age is probably the easiest way.” Acting Commissioner of Public Health Deidre Gifford said “we’re focusing on speed and simplicity.”

The state will vaccinate its population by age with the older residents going first without exception.

The complaint calls on the Office of Civil Rights to “direct Connecticut to immediately revise its COVID-19 vaccine policy to include individuals with underlying medical conditions, regardless of their age, who are at increased risk of COVID-19 infection…as a priority in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.”  

DRCT is also urging the federal government to “advise the State of Connecticut that it must have a process for people with disabilities to request and obtain reasonable modifications” to the state’s age-based vaccine eligibility policy.

“The state has now put more than 1 million people ahead of individuals in their 20’s or early 30’s, for example, who have a disability that would have made them eligible to receive a vaccination just days from now,” Dorfman said. “These are individuals who were previously told they would be eligible to receive a vaccine as soon as next week. Now it will be May at the earliest, and quite possibly considerably longer, before individuals deemed at greater risk by virtue of their disability, will even be able to try to make an appointment for a vaccine.”

Lamont’s decision to use age as the sole determinant for who gets vaccinated in Connecticut has received fierce criticism from those with pre-existing medical conditions and the disability community. 

At a press conference Thursday, the governor said he was aware of the complaint but suggested the group should take exception first with federal guidelines.

“Their real frustration ought to be with the CDC and the list of comorbidities that are on there and aren’t on there. I mean, folks with intellectual and physical disabilities weren’t even listed on the CDC list. It was really surprising,” Lamont said.