CORE Group’s Disability Inclusive Health TAG Co-Chairs hosted a workshop to identify key action steps to build a roadmap for disability-inclusive COVID-19 vaccine distribution. The workshop featured a panel of experts on social and behavior change, vaccine service delivery and last mile distribution, and disability inclusive health, including field-based experts able to comment on current COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
Ensuring equitable distribution, access, and utilization for vulnerable populations, especially people with disabilities, is a crucial but currently neglected aspect of vaccine equity discussions. One billion people in the world are living with disability and 80% of the population live in middle- and low-income countries. By leaving out persons with disabilities, approximately 11% of the global population may not have the opportunity to be vaccinated.
People with disabilities are at increased risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19, while they are less likely to have access to health services than those without disabilities.
Another challenge is vaccine hesitancy. Social and behavior change messages need to be developed to target people with disabilities to transform vaccine hesitancy to vaccine confidence.
To ensure equitable protection from COVID-19, persons with disabilities must be included and involved in the planning, implementation, and monitoring of last mile delivery of COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
Mohammad Iqbal | Disability, Gender and Age Specialist, Federation Handicap International Pakistan
Mohammad Iqbal currently works as Disability, Gender and Age Specialist with Federation Handicap International Pakistan. He has a BS in Sociology from the University of Peshawar. As a disability researcher, he has conducted a number of studies on disability-related issues in Pakistan, including a report for the United Nations through the International Disability Alliance on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in Pakistan. Mohammad is a member of the Asia Pacific Disability Constituency on Sustainable Development, the World Blind Union’s Youth Engagement and Leadership Committee and Employment Committee, and the International Disability Alliance’s Youth Committee. He is an alumnus of the International Disability Alliance BRIDGE CRPD-SDGs Training.
Dr. Bonnielin Swenor | Founder and Director, Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center
Dr. Bonnielin K. Swenor is an epidemiologist and associate professor at The Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute and the Epidemiology Department at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is the founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center, which addresses health inequities for people with disabilities and aims to shift the paradigm from “living with a disability” to “thriving with a disability.” Dr. Swenor received an MPH and doctorate degrees in epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the National Institute on Aging. Her work has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, and JAMA and featured in media outlets including Time Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Politico. Dr. Swenor’s work leading the COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard for People with Disabilities has been widely cited to support policy change in the United States and beyond.
Dr. Juliet Ajok | Child Health Technical Advisor, USAID RHITES-EC
Dr. Juliet Ajok currently serves as the Child Health Technical Advisor on USAID’s Regional Health Integration to Enhance Services in East Central Uganda Activity (RHITES-EC), led by URC. In this role, she focuses on improving access to high-quality health services and resources for public sector health services. Dr. Ajok also supports and coordinates the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the East Central Uganda region.
Disability Inclusive Health Technical Advisory Group Co-Chairs
Rachel Chaikof, Program Manager, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan Division, Chemonics
Dr. Laura McGough, Senior Technical Advisor, Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH), URC
Grace Peters, Programs Associate, Comprehensive Cleft Care, Smile Train