When I first heard that the state changed the COVID-19 vaccination eligibility to be almost exclusively age-based, I thought it must be a mistake. Since as early as December, I have been told that I would be part of Phase 1b as someone with an underlying medical condition. I am 29 years old and suddenly went from being next in line to the end of the line.
I have a form of muscular dystrophy, a group of genetic diseases that causes progressive muscle weakness and loss of muscle mass. Right now the symptom I spend the most time addressing is its impact on my ability to breathe.
I require around-the-clock care and need help with just about every activity of daily living. I rely on multiple breathing machines to make it through the day.
I am able to live at home thanks to the state’s Personal Care Attendant (PCA) Waiver program, which is part of Medicaid. It allows me to hire PCAs to come into my home to help care for me.
To protect ourselves from COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control recommends getting vaccinated, wearing a face covering and social distancing. I am not able to effectively do any of these things. When you need help eating and brushing your teeth, it is impossible to wear a mask and social distance. Luckily, everyone who cares for me has been vaccinated because they qualify as health care workers under Phase 1a.
I have been taking every precaution to stay safe. I have barely left my house since the pandemic started, except for going for walks. My PCA wears an N95 mask and plastic face shield. I always run an air purifier that I keep nearby.
Everyone that I am around on a daily basis has been fully vaccinated, but according to Dr. Fauci, they can still spread the virus to me.
Connecticut has already vaccinated nursing home residents and people who live in congregate settings. Vaccinating people who require daily personal care from people outside of their household is a logical next step.
The state can easily extend eligibility to recipients of the PCA Waiver and other Medicaid programs. Our medical conditions have already been vetted. They were able to send me an email to register my PCAs for the vaccine. They can just as easily send me an email to schedule my own vaccination appointment.
When people talk about getting vaccinated, they talk about regaining a sense of normalcy: socializing with family and friends, going out to eat, traveling. I just want to feel safe being cared for in my own home.
We may not be able to prioritize everyone with an underlying condition, but we should still do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable from this deadly virus.
Will Hermann lives in Suffield where he runs his own technology consulting business. He can be reached on Twitter at @wthermann.
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