Many Nonelderly People With Disabilities Face COVID-19 Risks Similar to Those of the Elderly in Nursing Homes, But Do Not Have Equal Footing When it Comes to Vaccine Priority

While the toll of COVID-19 on nursing home residents has been well documented, less noticed has been the experience of nonelderly people with disabilities who rely on long-term care services and supports outside of nursing homes. In many ways the two groups face similar health risks from the virus, but nonelderly people with disabilities generally do not have the same high priority status for the vaccine, finds a new KFF analysis.

As of early February there had been 111,000 cases and 6,500 deaths from COVID-19 across 31 states that report data in settings such as group homes, personal care homes, adult day care programs, as well as in institutional settings such as intermediate care facilities and psychiatric institutions, the analysis finds. People served in such settings include adults with autism, Down syndrome, substance use disorder and serious mental illness, as well as traumatic brain injuries. Most of them obtain long-term care services and supports through Medicaid. This analysis excludes settings that primarily serve elderly adults, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The variation in state reporting makes it hard to compare data across states.

The analysis presents state-level data about COVID-19 cases and deaths in settings that primarily serve nonelderly people with disabilities and summarizes available research on this population’s elevated risk of severe illness and death; explains how nonelderly people with disabilities and their long-term care service providers are reflected in state vaccine prioritization plans; and discusses key issues related to vaccine access for these populations.

For more data and analyses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit kff.org.

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