Disability advocates demanded a public apology from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky after she called it “encouraging news” that the majority of COVID-19 deaths among the vaccinated were of people with preexisting medical conditions — or “who were unwell to begin with,” as she put it.
Leaders from several countries will be represented on Friday disability advocacy groups held a call with WalenskyWhere the CDC director is located apologized for her “hurtful” remarks last week on “Good Morning America.” Advocates in turn demanded a public apology From Walensky to people with disabilities.
In last week’s GMA interview, Walensky described a study of people who had been vaccinated, saying: “The overwhelming number of deaths, over 75%, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities. These are actually people who weren’t well to begin with. And yes, really encouraging news in the context of omicron… we’re really encouraged by these results.”
Twitter’s hashtag #DisabilityOutrage was shared by people with disabilities. #MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy, started by activist Imani Barbarin, to call out the remarks for having “pushed the narrative of vulnerable people’s lives being disposable” and implying that their “lives aren’t worth protecting.”
After Friday’s call, Walensky tweeted her thanks to disability advocates for the meeting, saying she “Look[s] forward to our continued engagements to address the disparities and inequities made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The CDC’s readout of the call noted that Walensky had “apologized for the hurtful, yet unintentional, statement pertaining to COVID-19 deaths and comorbidities,” and committed the CDC to “regular engagements” with the disability community.
Disability advocates met with Walensky and stated that it was important for Walensky’s apology to be followed up with policy changes.
This is a letter put out Thursday, over 140 disability advocacy groups noted that people with disabilities and preexisting conditions have been disproportionately killed by COVID-19 and that “each of these deaths is a devastating loss to families, friends and to our broader communities.”
“The dismissal and devaluation of people with disabilities has been our daily experience throughout this pandemic,” the letter read.
The groups’ demandsRegular, ongoing meetings between CDC leadership representatives and groups representing disability groups are recommended. The CDC is also asked to place people with disabilities and those from other communities that have been disproportionately affected by the virus in all its COVID-19 guidance for the public.
Coronavirus is now available killed over 840,000 people in the U.S.In the last two years, people with disabilities faced a higher rate of severe illness, hospitalization, and even death. In recent weeks, the number of cases has risen across the nation due to the spreading of the Omicron variant.
Wendy Lu contributed reporting.