Monday, October 18

Up to 18 US States Have Not Prioritized Covid Vaccines for the Homeless, Study Finds | Coronavirus

Up to 18 states in the US have not specifically prioritized the homeless community in their plans to distribute Covid-19 vaccines, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizing that the population has a particularly high risk when it comes to the virus. a study has found.

Research conducted by the National Academy of State Health Policy, a nonpartisan forum of policymakers, focused on people living in homeless shelters and he found that phasing plans in states such as Maryland, Illinois, and Minnesota did not explicitly name that community as a priority population.

Donald Whitehead, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, explained that homeless people often do not have access to health care, virus protection needs such as masks, or the ability to self-quarantine if are infected. They may also have underlying conditions like diabetes and asthma, which could put them at higher risk for serious illness from the virus.

“If we leave up to 3.5 million people, because that is the number of homeless people in the United States, that many people are left without vaccines or waiting until the end, we are not going to overcome this pandemic, it will continue. perpetuate, because we have many people who have not received the necessary attention, “he told The Guardian.

The academy’s findings initially came from plans each state submitted to the CDC last fall, but have since been updated based on the latest guidance on each state’s website, most recently on February 26.

The table includes states such as Montana and South Dakota, which prioritize groups such as people in congregated settings and those with high-risk medical conditions, but do not specifically highlight the homeless population. It also includes Louisiana, which, while its website states that those who work in homeless shelters will be eligible for a vaccine in its next phase, does not single out the homeless.

Jill Rosenthal, senior director of programs at the National Academy of State Health Policy, said it’s worth noting that with federal guidelines and vaccine supplies continuing to evolve, all states have seen some movement in their distribution plans. . And as such, more changes could come.

Wisconsin, for example, did not initially highlight the homeless community in its distribution phases, and has now added those living in homeless shelters and transitional housing, Rosenthal explained.

Last week, Oregon Governor Kate Brown also announced that the state would include the homeless in the next phase of distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine, which begins in late March.

Currently, Rosenthal explained, only a handful of states have begun vaccinating people who are homeless, including Connecticut and Massachusetts. He said that it will be important that those states that have not started this work “learn from other states that are already vaccinating this population about the best practices, so that they can more effectively reach shelters and those who live on the street.”

Last week, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council sent a letter to governors and state and local health authorities, highlighting the urgency of giving “priority status to people who are homeless, especially people living in homeless shelters, camps and other congregational settings “.

He added: “Failure to immediately prioritize the homeless leaves a highly vulnerable population unprotected, exacerbates racial inequalities, and undermines public health efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19 in local communities.”

Don L Gardner, 63, has been homeless in Washington DC for the past month and a half, after losing his job as a shoe repairman. He is diabetic and asthmatic and stays with his mother or in his car because he worries about staying in shelters due to the pandemic. He said he is still waiting to get the vaccine and would like other homeless people to be prioritized when it comes to this distribution.

He said: “The homeless population is a forgotten population, an invisible population and they must be recognized as human beings and recognized as a population that needs that vaccine because they are dying just like other populations.”

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