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This page will discuss reasons for vaccine hesitancy in both the general & disabled community, COVID-19s impact on the disabled community, ongoing efforts to promote vaccine confidence in the disabled community, and experts/groups promoting vaccine confidence in the general & disability community.

Reasons for vaccine hesitancy

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has estimated that COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy rates range from 3.81-25.61%  across the United States. Below are common reasons for hesitancy:

Distrust of Vaccines

There are individuals who don’t welcome all vaccines. One possible reason is the fear of vaccines causing autism even though this has been disproved. Others choose not to get the yearly flu vaccine because they never catch the flu or, in the past, have had only mild symptoms. (Source)

Vaccine Timeline

Fear it is not safe due to the vaccine being new and developed in a timeframe like no other vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccine took less than a year to be approved, while most vaccines take years to receive approval. To some, it may seem rushed; however, the technology behind the COVID-19 vaccine has been around for 20 years. (Source)


Some are reluctant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine due to its effectiveness. There are many unanswered questions, such as how long the vaccine is effective or its effectiveness against emerging strains. (Source)

Side Effects

The fear of having to wait for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine and its long-term side effects leads to hesitancy. (Source)

Not concerned about the virus

Some individuals don’t see COVID-19 as a serious health risk and due to this people may not feel the need to protect themselves from it. (Source)

Click here to view common questions concerning the COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine hesitancy in the disabled community

In an online, self-report sample of 4,131 adults with disabilities, 38% were already vaccinated, 34% were going to be vaccinated, 17% were not sure if they will be vaccinated, and 10% were not going to be vaccinated. (AAHD COVID-19 and Vaccine Survey Project)

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder from non-White backgrounds (i.e., self-identified as Asian, Black, Latinx, Multiracial, and Other) had disproportionately higher rates of vaccine hesitancy (48.1%) than White parents (22.8%) for their children (Chang & Kochel, 2020).

Healthcare workers also present a notable rate of vaccine hesitancy, which disproportionately affects the disabled and IDD communities that utilize long-term services and supports in healthcare settings (Dror et al., 2020Unroe et al., 2020).

The impact of COVID-19 on the disabled community

Below are statistics on the impact of COVID-19 on the disabled community:

Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) are disproportionately affected by COVID-19
  • IDD and related conditions are the third-highest risk of COVID-19 death (West Health Institute & John Hopkins University School of Medicine, 2020).
  • Intellectual disability is the strongest risk factor for COVID-19 (Gleason et al., 2021).
  • In an English sample, risk of death for men and women with disabilities were 3.1 and 3.5 times, respectively, greater than their non-disabled counterparts (Ayoubkhani & Bosworth, 2021).
  • Individuals with Down Syndrome have a three-fold increased risk for mortality compared to the general population (Huls et al., 2021).
  • Individuals with learning disabilities faced negative impacts from COVID-19, including adapting to working from home, feeling lonely due to lack of in-person social interaction, suspension of resources (e.g., community centers), and anxiety and fear about themselves, friends, and family members contracting the COVID-19 virus (Flynn et al., 2021).
Three main factors to the disproportionately negative impact of COVID-19 faced by the disabled community

(1) increased risk of poor health outcomes from the disease, (2) reduced access to routine health care and rehabilitation, and (3) adverse social impacts of efforts to mitigate the pandemic (Shakespeare et al., 2021).


  • Vaccination policies failed to account for disabled persons relying on long-term services and supports that lived outside of nursing homes, despite also showing elevated risks of COVID-19 infection (Musumeci & Chidambaram, 2021).
  • Because of the diversity in the intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) community, there is not a “single way” to provide healthcare, and each individual requires personalized care (Lunsky et al., 2021).
  • COVID-19 pandemic affected individuals with IDD’s well-being and mental health care: (1) impact of pandemic on daily life and well-being, (2) a need for connection, and (3) availability and access to mental health supports (Lake et al., 2021).
    • However, individuals demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of new adversities.


An estimated 1-in-5 adults with IDD live in congregate care, further increasing their risk of COVID-19:

Source (Chidambaram, 2020Larson et al., 2014).



The impact of COVID-19 on the disabled community goes beyond persons with disabilities:

Siblings of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities expressed compounded worry about family’s physical and mental health (Redquest et al., 2021)

Efforts to promote vaccine confidence in the disabled community

Below are ongoing efforts to promote vaccine confidence in the disabled community. Please click each tab to learn more.

Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center and The Center for Dignity in Healthcare for People with Disabilities

The built the COVID-19 Vaccine Prioritization Dashboard for People with Disabilities (Epstein et al., 2021

Functions of dashboard include:

  • COVID-19 vaccine prioritisation in US states, US Capital, and US territories
  • Prioritisation information is collected from state and territory health websites 
    • Information is conducted on a weekly basis  
Categories of dashboard include: 
  • Categories:
    • long-term care settings
    • congregate care settings 
    • chronic conditions
    • other disability-related categories 
      • Such as: 
        • specific types of disabilities
        • recipients of home-based care 
        • medicaid beneficiaries
    • caregivers for disability people who are receiving home-based care 
Intention of dashboard:
  • accessible resource 
  • details US state and territory vaccine priority for specific groups 
Data provides perspective concerning inequities for the disability community (Epstein et al., 2021
How “focused messaging” can help vaccine outreach within the disability community

Ensuring that the information provided to the disability community is clear and accessible

  • Accessibility includes disabilities for: vision, hearing, cognitive 
Emphasis on when and where the vaccine should be approached 
  • Addressing concerns and worries about the vaccine
    • Particularly for public outreach campaigns 
    • Propose: two-way communication with disability community 
  • Partnership between public health departments/outreach groups and state Medicaid agencies    
    • Focus towards: disability community and these individuals’ health care providers 
    • A good fraction of the disability community are listed under Medicaid
    • These Medicaid programs could have already formed trusted connections with community-based health care and LTSS providers

Source (Musumeci & Chidambaram, 2021)

Survey conducted by Orange County Health Care Agency concerning COVID-19

Please click here for further detail: (https://occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/sites/virus/files/2021-03/COVID_Vaccine_Hesitancy_report.pdf)

IDD (Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities) Population: COVID Resources

Please click here for further information: (https://www.hcarddcovid.com/info#vaccine)

Experts/groups promoting vaccine confidence in the general & disabled community

Here is a list of reputable groups that strive to promote vaccine confidence:

Center for Disease Control (CDC)

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides the latest news and resources to help protect the health of communities across the U.S. Here you can find information and pertaining to vaccine confidence and strategies to take as to build trust and engage communities in regards to the covid-19 vaccines.

Hood Medicine

Hood Medicine strives to raise awareness regarding the disparities that marginalized groups have been facing during the current pandemic and to provide resources that can help such communities. Here you can find information pertaining to covid-19 and the vaccines in the form of podcasts, infographics, and FAQs. 

Disability Visibility Project

 The Disability Visibility Project strives to create and share the stories of the disabled community through sharing their own narratives in the form of essays, podcasts, and other forms of media. Here you can find information regarding covid-19 related-resources and the experiences of individuals in the disabled community during the pandemic.

International Disability AIliance (IDA)

IDA consists of over 1,100 organizations from around the world which promote inclusivity and advocacy of disabled individuals. Here you can find updates and resources in regards to vaccine availability and accessibility to the disabled community.

Vaccine Awareness and Research (CVAR)

CVAR’s main goal is to aid mothers and their children in providing vaccine delivery and awareness through education, resources, and research. Here you can find the latest resources and updates pertaining to covid-19.

Johns Hopkins Medicine

Johns Hopkins Medicine conducts research and provides patient-centered care in order to help, prevent, diagnose, and treat varying illnesses and diseases. Here you can find information which tackles concerns regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccine hesitancy.

Disability, Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)

DREDF is led both by disabled individuals and their families to improve the civil and human rights of the disabled community by promoting accessibility and combating institutionalized prejudices. Here you can find information regarding questions on vaccination guidelines specific to covid-19, vaccines, and Californians with Disabilities.

Social Media Accounts

Here you can find posts regarding covid-19, vaccine hesitancy, and promoting vaccine confidence among self-advocates and allies of the disabled community







UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) consists of nine distinct programs which strive to combat challenges pertaining to many different health and public health issues, including disease prevention. Here you can find information regarding vaccine confidence resources.

Helpful Resource: Vaccine Myths Debunked