COVID-19: People with intellectual disabilities in Montreal finally getting shots

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People with intellectual or developmental disabilities and autism living at home on the island of Montreal have begun getting their COVID-19 shots.

Health authorities told Global News Thursday afternoon that rollout for that group began April 12.  In an email statement, Hélène Bergeron-Gamache, spokesperson for the West Island regional health board wrote, “Already nearly 300 people have been vaccinated, and we plan to vaccinate nearly 500 in the coming weeks.”

That confirmation comes amid confusion among some families about whether their loved ones are eligible, and when the province would open vaccinations for that group.  As recently as Thursday morning, some families in the city had no idea when those adults at home with intellectual or developmental disabilities were going to be prioritized for the COVID vaccine.

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Alexandre Grant, whose twin brother Jonathan has autism and a developmental disability, told Global News they had been pushing for months since people with those conditions, like his brother, are at greater risk for contracting the virus.

“We know that people with intellectual disability are at higher risk for getting COVID,” said Grant. “They’re also at higher risk for severe outcomes.”

He said they weren’t getting any answers.

In early April, people with similar conditions who live in group homes and other residences started getting their shots.

But even after the health ministry opened up vaccinations for people with chronic illnesses in the first week of April, some families, like the Grants, were still told their loved ones didn’t fall into that category.

When Global News contacted some of the regional health boards to ask if and when the shots would be given, the West Island health board confirmed that vaccinations to this group are underway.

“In addition to actively collaborating with community organizations in the territory to reach this clientele,” wrote Bergeron-Gamache, “we proactively called hundreds of families to arrange an appointment.”

But when Premier François Legault was asked why these groups aren’t being prioritized for inoculations, it seems he wasn’t aware that these groups were already getting their shots.

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He was asked Thursday morning when such groups would start getting inoculated, and he replied, “Of course we would like to do more, we would like to do these people faster, but right now we recommend the list and the priority of the public health.”

It’s still not clear if people in that category who live elsewhere in the province can also start making appointments to get their shots.

Global News contacted the health ministry to get some clarification, but there has been no response yet.

The Grant family told Global News that Thursday evening, they were finally called with an appointment for Jonathan.

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