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Pennsylvania Launches Vaccine Hotline For Residents With Intellectual Disabilities

coronavirus covid-19 vaccine band-aids needles.JPG
Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Bandages and needles sit on a table where pharmacists give out COVID-19 vaccines.

The state Department of Human Services has announced a specialized vaccine hotline for Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities or autism and their caregivers.

The effort comes on the heels of a Jefferson Health study that identified intellectual disability as the biggest risk factor for COVID-19 mortality, following age.

Officials are working with RiteAid to make the vaccine scheduling process as easy as possible.

Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities or autism or their caregivers can call 1-800-424-4345 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

They’ll reach the Office of Developmental Programs, which will then figure out the most convenient RiteAid location for the caller and arrange transportation or onsite accommodations.

Acting Secretary Meg Snead said the hotline would serve anyone with a disability age 16 or older, regardless of their enrollment in any state programs.

“This hotline will help us ease potential barriers and ensure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as their caregivers, are able to get this life-saving vaccine,” she said.
Special Olympics Pennsylvania President and CEO Matthew Aaron said his organization would also begin outreach efforts to combat vaccine hesitancy among those with disabilities.

“One of our primary concerns now is making sure that nobody gets overlooked or left behind,” he said. “And that’s where organizations like Special Olympics and The Arc [of Philadelphia] can really play an important role. Our constituents know us and they trust us.”