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Salt Lake County Working To Improve Vaccine Access For All

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – As the vaccine rollout continues, residents who are deaf, blind or wheelchair-bound are at a disadvantage for getting appointments and shots.

Debra Mair, executive director for Utah Independent Living Center, experienced the challenges firsthand and spent most of 2020 off the grid. She’s quadriplegic and has been extra cautious with COVID-19 public health guidelines.

In recent weeks, she spent a lot of time trying to get an all-important vaccine appointment.

“You know you wait a really long time. Two hours the first time we tried to call,” Mair said.

At the end of February, she called to make her first vaccine appointment. She found a slot for March 1.

Last weekend she was told her appointment was one of the 7,200 that were canceled following a website glitch. That glitch allowed people who were not qualified for their first vaccination to make an appointment anyway.

Mair’s appointment was canceled even though she was qualified to get the vaccine.

“I got the email and my address was wrong, my name was spelled wrong. So I thought it was someone else. So I called back again,” she said.

She was then told the next appointment would be March 9. The problem with that date was, as KSL first reported, thousands of appointments were left unfilled throughout this week in Salt Lake County.

KSL contacted the Salt Lake County Health Department to find out what was going on.

Jill Miller with the health department said, “if you don’t have in-home care, we ask that you contact our aging services with the county and they will work with them to get the vaccine.”

KSL also asked why Mair was not told about the free extra ride services that the county offers. The answer was the county call centers are taught to share that information with people who let the operators know that they have disabilities.

The county called Mair’s case an isolated incident and promised to reach out to her directly.

“One of the things that this has made me realize is that there needs to be more advocacy around ADA and accommodations for people with disabilities,” Mair said.

Mair said she believes county operators are doing their best, but they are overwhelmed with the calls. She hopes the state and county don’t overlook people with disabilities and limitations moving forward.

Free rides are available to get a vaccine for those who blind, deaf or have mobility complications.

You can get more information by calling 385-468-4636.

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