Cathy Osten


Cathy Osten



March 11, 2021

Sens. Osten & Slap Write Letter to Governor Seeking Vaccination for People with I/DD

HARTFORD – Saying their constituents are disappointed and frustrated, state Senators Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) and Derek Slap (D-West Hartford) have joined other members of a bipartisan commission on intellectual disabilities to urge Governor Ned Lamont to modify his COVID-19 vaccine guidelines to immediately include people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In a March 3 letter to the governor (attached), Sens. Osten and Slap are joined by four other members of the Bipartisan Commission on Intellectual Disabilities and the Impact of COVID-19 that was created under the Joint Rules of the Senate at the beginning of the 2021 legislative session in January.

“We believe that this vulnerable population should have been prioritized to receive the vaccine as soon as possible or as originally planned under Phase 1B due to elevated health concerns and not based on the new age-based plan that was announced recently. Our immunocompromised population and many in our I/DD community are at serious risk for developing adverse complications that will only exasperate their underlying medical conditions if they are not given priority,” the bipartisan Commission wrote Gov. Lamont. “Furthermore, our I/DD population has been impacted greatly during this pandemic and they have faced even greater social isolation and setbacks that range from issues from not being able visit with family or being able to learn or work in the developmental programs normally offered to them. Due to their condition, many in this population are also not able to wear masks and have not been vaccinated because they receive services at home or may not be in other group settings.”

“We would also appreciate if you could give serious consideration to allotting a certain number of dedicated vaccines for this population based on need,” they added.

Their letter comes as a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine “Catalyst” newsletter shows individuals with intellectual disabilities are at substantially increased risk of dying from COIVID-19:

The study of 65 million patients across 547 health care organizations reveals that having an intellectual disability was the strongest independent risk factor for presenting with a COVID-19 diagnosis, and the strongest independent risk factor — other than age — for COVID-19 mortality. The study found that people with developmental disabilities are more than three times more likely to die following a diagnosis of COVID-19, and that those with intellectual disabilities are 2.75 times as likely to die following such a diagnosis.

“Screening for COVID-19, care coordination, and vaccination efforts should be intense within this population that is less able to consistently use masks and socially distance,” the study concludes.

Sen. Osten said while she understands that older age groups are more likely to contract the coronavirus and suffer serious consequences, “the science shows that there are other, smaller groups, such as individuals with I/DD, who are also at very high risk for COVID-19.”

“If our goal as a state government is to follow the science and to vaccinate those who are most likely to contract and die from this virus, then obviously we need to prioritize vaccinations for people with I/DD. It can be done with the simple stroke of a pen,” Sen. Osten said.

“This is a wrenching issue for individuals and families that is causing a lot more heartache than it should,” Sen. Slap said. “Connecticut has been at the national forefront of coronavirus management and treatment for nearly a year. The Lamont administration has largely done a great job with the COVID-19 crisis, and I hope that they can quickly make this change in order to reduce the fear and anxiety among folks with I/DD and their family members.”