For many parents, caregivers, and individuals with disabilities, having a sensory-sensitive environment makes the difference between accessing vaccines and not being able to get vaccinated at all.

At our upcoming sensory-friendly vaccine clinics, hosted in collaboration with Dignity Health Sequoia Hospital and Hope Technology School, anyone over age 12 will be able to get vaccinated in a calm, safe, and inclusive environment. 

“As a parent of a person with autism, I’m thrilled to go to a vaccination site that will be sensitive to his specific needs,” wrote one of the parents who signed up her son for the clinic.

“Just knowing that there are people who understand and will be patient and sensitive will make all the difference,” she continued. “Otherwise, we would not have been able to get him vaccinated.” 

The sensory-friendly clinic was designed by a team of medical professionals, special educators, and parents to create a stress-free atmosphere for recipients and caregivers. Some of the unique features of the clinic include short wait times, visual reminders, social stories, relaxing media, calm stations, and much more. 

Recipients can choose from a walk-up or drive-through option, and every vaccine recipient will receive a visual schedule so they know what to expect when they visit. 

Inclusive environments improve access to vaccines

Getting vaccinated can be anxiety-inducing for anyone, but those with disabilities often face additional barriers that make the vaccination process daunting if not debilitating. Fear of needles, an unpredictable environment, and many other factors can make typical vaccination sites inaccessible.

In fact, a recent report from Kaiser Health News discovered that “nearly all of the 94 federal, state and local websites with COVID-19 vaccine sign-ups or information that they checked did not meet accessibility standards.” 

At the same time, health complications and death rates from COVID-19 have been disproportionately higher for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities than for those without. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also identified a higher risk of infection or unnoticed illness among those who have limited mobility and cannot avoid coming into contact with others.

Access is a bigger problem than hesitancy

Hesitancy makes a better story because you’ve got controversy,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “But there’s a bigger problem of access than there is of hesitancy.

They Haven’t Gotten a Covid Vaccine Yet. But They Aren’t ‘Hesitant’ Either” (NY Times)

The COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be both safe and remarkably effective at limiting the spread of the virus and, crucially, preventing hospitalizations and death. As public health officials work to reach the vaccine hesitant, it’s important to remember that there is actually a larger population of people who want to get a vaccine but need a solution to the barriers they face accessing one.

Vaccinating as many people as possible is key to coming out of the pandemic and preventing COVID-19 from circulating in vulnerable populations. That’s why we believe that creating a thoughtful and inclusive environment for these individuals who would like to get vaccinated is an essential part of serving our community

How to sign up for the clinic

The sensory-friendly clinics will be held on May 15 and June 12 at Sequoia Health and Wellness Center in Redwood City, California. 

Interest in the clinic has grown rapidly, and we have expanded to accommodate more appointments while maintaining a sensory-friendly environment. To sign up, please visit bacc.cc/clinic.

We hope that through our sensory-friendly clinic, we can remove barriers and relieve a burden for more families and individuals by providing a safe and sensitive way to get vaccinated. 

Amy Query

Amy Query

Amy Query is an editor of BACC Inspire and avid reader. She studied psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and has over a decade of experience in mentoring, counseling and community organizing. Amy makes a mean hamdilla (quesadilla + ham).

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