Confusion abounds in Quebec over whether people with intellectual disabilities are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination or not.
Several families have joined forces and hired constitutional lawyer Julius Grey, who sent a legal notice to the government Friday demanding that people with disabilities be made eligible for COVID-19 vaccines immediately.
“It discriminates against the handicapped. So all we want is for them to be immediately eligible for vaccination,” said constitutional lawyer Julius Grey. “It’s frustrating because these people are in category 10, the general population, so these people would not be eligible until the summer.”
Alexander Grant worries often about his twin brother Jonathan contracting COVID-19. That’s because Jonathan has autism.
“I think it would be devastating. It would almost be impossible for him to be isolated for him the entire time to get over COVID,” Grant said. “He needs a lot of care, we need to be there with him.”
Grant says according to Quebec’s official vaccine priority list, Jonathan isn’t eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. So Grant joined several other families, threatening to sue the Quebec government over the issue.
Then Thursday night, his local CIUSS, or regional health authority, called to say Jonathan was eligible.
“I think there is a bit of discordance between what is being said on the official website and the of the official guidelines and what is happening on the ground,” said Grant. “This is adding to the distress of individuals and families and some clarification is needed.”
Both the South-central and West Island health authorities told Global News people with intellectual disabilities are eligible for vaccination.
In March, the government said it would start vaccinating people with intellectual disabilities who live in long-term care or group homes. They do not need to make an appointment.
But confusion exists on the Quebec government’s website.
“The list is extremely complicated and we don’t have clear directives,” said Anik Larose of the Quebec Intellectual Disability Society. “We are asking the government for more clarity.”
On the government’s priority list, autism isn’t listed as an eligible vulnerability for COVID-19 vaccination.
Down syndrome is listed, but only if the patient is in hospital, leaving families with people at home confused.
The Canadian Down Syndrome Society has been inundated with calls this week from worried families.
“They are very worried because they feel this wording has purposefully discriminated against people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities,” said Laura LaChance, the interim executive director of the CDSS.
In a statement, Health Ministry spokesperon Marie-Hélène Emond told Global News that “People with trisomy 21 and currently hospitalized can currently benefit from the vaccine against COVID-19, since they are currently part of group 8.”
“This is not the case with other forms of intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder,” Edmond said. “Due to their level of risk, these people will be able to get the vaccination at the same time as other people in their age group….Remember that everyone will be able to receive a vaccine by the end of June, which is coming soon!”
Grey sent a legal letter saying unless the Quebec government changes its policy across the province, he will pursue legal action next week.