'We shouldn't have to fight this hard to stay alive.' Disabled Californians say they've been forgotten by vaccine rollout

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, Calif. (KABC) -- Tim Jin of Orange County has cerebral palsy, so the 45-year-old is considered high risk for COVID-19. But he's not yet eligible for the vaccine because of his age.

"We are extremely disappointed that Governor Newsom still hasn't announced the people with high risk disabilities will have access to the vaccine soon. We shouldn't have to fight this hard to stay alive. When I go to the mall, I get to park in disabled parking. But with the vaccine, the disabled community is left behind," said Jin, who lives in Fountain Valley.

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A rotation of eight caregivers help Jin, who communicates by using his toes to type on an iPad. All of Jin's caregivers have received the vaccine, and some are under the age of 65 and healthy, but the person they take care of remains in isolation, terrified of the virus.

"Studies show that people with disabilities who contract the virus are far more likely to die than the general population. One study found that people with down syndrome are nearly five more times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 and face 10 times the risk for COVID-19-related death," said Jin.

"It is pretty astonishing that this is happening and it is not happening in other states. We know most states in the country are actually prioritizing people with high risk disabilities," said Judy Mark with the advocacy group Disability Voices United.

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California's vaccine policy currently includes anyone above the age of 65, as the governor laid out last Monday.

"75 percent of the deaths are reflected in people 65 and over. We want health care workers to continue... and continue to do what we can to vaccinate the vaccinators, our first responders, our farmworkers, our critical workers on the frontlines, our food delivery system and our teachers," the governor said during that press conference.

Eyewitness News reached out to the California Department of Public Health to find out why the highest risk members of California's disabled population haven't been vaccinated and to see when they could be added to the vaccine list. The state said they hear this concern and are working on a solution.

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