January 28th, 2021: The following letter was sent to Premier Scott Moe and cc'd to the Minister of Health (Paul Merriman), the Minister of Rural and Remote Health (Everett Hindley), the Minister of Social Services (Lori Carr), the Saskatchewan Health Authority Chief Medical Health Officer (Dr. Saqib Shahab), and the CEO of Saskatchewan Health Authority (Scott Livingstone).
Dear Premier Moe,
On behalf of individuals with intellectual disabilities living in congregate settings in Saskatchewan, we urge you to prioritize these individuals for vaccination against COVID-19 as soon as possible.
In our letter dated December 15, 2020, we made the same request with high hopes that phase one of Saskatchewan Health Authority’s vaccination plan would include these vulnerable individuals. Since that time, our situation in Saskatchewan has grown more urgent, with high levels of community spread of the coronavirus impacting Elmwood Manor, the largest residence for people with intellectual disabilities in Saskatchewan. INSK Inclusion Consultants report that of 450 people supported across the province by our Inclusion Team in 2020, 10% have tested positive for COVID-19. New research has conclusively demonstrated that individuals with intellectual disabilities are among those most vulnerable to the COVID-19 disease. A study from New York, Landes et al., (2020) has determined that the mortality rate for individuals with intellectual disabilities living in group homes is 8 times higher than the general population. A recent Canadian study, Campanella et al, (2021) recommends that this population should be prioritized in Canada’s vaccine distribution plan, due to a higher risk for severe outcomes due to COVID-19. Individuals with intellectual disabilities often experience other co-morbidities, making them extremely susceptible to adverse outcomes and death.
Attention to this urgent situation is required, not only for the health of the residents, but also because outbreaks in group homes pose a significant general public health risk. Residents and their support staff should be vaccinated as soon as possible, to guard against further community spread. In other provinces and territories, notably Ontario and the North West Territories, individuals with intellectual disabilities have been included in phase one of vaccination plans, to protect both the vulnerable and general public health.
Given the urgency of this situation, we would ask that you include and prioritize individuals with intellectual disabilities and the frontline workers who support them in the first phase of the COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Plan. It is not too late to take lifesaving action to address this situation.