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Partnership with CDC to Increase Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

March 29, 2021

CDC and ACL will provide nearly $100 million in grants to help older adults and people with disabilities get vaccines


This afternoon, President Biden announced several actions to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines, including an exciting partnership between ACL and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to increase vaccine access for people with disabilities and older adults.

Because they are significantly more likely to have a severe illness, be hospitalized, or die from COVID-19, vaccination is critical for older adults and many people with disabilities. However, even if they meet their state’s criteria to receive the vaccine, many face significant barriers to getting vaccinated. With funding from CDC, ACL will issue nearly $100 million in grants to the aging and disability networks to provide critical services to help overcome those barriers.

Throughout the pandemic, ACL has advocated alongside the aging and disability networks and advocates, and with partners across HHS and the federal government, to ensure equal access to care for older adults and people with disabilities. We are excited to partner with CDC to make vaccines equally accessible, as well. 

These grants will provide assistance with scheduling vaccine appointments, transportation to vaccine sites, direct support services needed to attend vaccine appointments, connection to in-home vaccination options, and education about the importance of receiving the vaccine to older adults and people with disabilities. In addition, these grants will enable the aging and disability networks to identify people who are unable to independently travel to vaccination sites and to provide technical assistance to local health departments on improving access to vaccines for people with disabilities and older adults.

Approximately $5 million will fund national hotlines to connect older adults and people with disabilities with local disability and aging agencies that can assist with vaccine registration and provide services and supports necessary to get the vaccine. This funding will increase the capacity of the Eldercare Locator, a nationwide service funded by ACL that connects older Americans and their caregivers with trustworthy local support resources. It also will leverage the infrastructure of the Eldercare Locator to provide, for the first time, a similar service for people with disabilities. 

An additional $93 million will be distributed as follows:

  • State Units on Aging and Area Agencies on Aging ($50 million)
  • Aging and Disability Resource Centers ($26 million)
  • Centers for Independent Living that receive federal funding directly from ACL. ($5 million)
  • University Centers of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities ($4 million)
  • Protection and Advocacy systems ($4 million)
  • State Councils on Developmental Disabilities ($4 million)

This partnership was established to further the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness, which includes protecting those most at risk and advancing equity as one of its goals.

Background: Vaccine Barriers for Older Adults and People with Disabilities

Older adults are more likely to have a severe illness, be hospitalized, or die from COVID-19; adults 65 and older account for 8 out of every 10 COVID-19 related deaths. People with disabilities also often are at increased risk; in fact, a recent study found that intellectual disability is the greatest risk factor after age. Many people with disabilities have additional conditions that are associated with severe illness due to COVID-19, and many others are at increased risk because they live in group settings, require close contact with direct service providers who help with activities of daily living, and/or have difficulty complying with mitigation protocols.

Although vaccination is particularly important for these populations, many people with disabilities and older adults have difficulty:

  • Finding information about their eligibility and where to go for the vaccine. Approximately one in four older adults does not have a computer or internet service to find information about how to get vaccinated and how to schedule appointments. Many live alone and do not have family who can help them.  
  • Scheduling appointments.
  • Obtaining accessible transportation.
  • Navigating mass vaccination sites.

In addition, about one in five older adults and many people with disabilities may be unable to easily leave their homes and require either in-home vaccination or other specialized arrangements to receive the vaccine.

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Last modified on 05/18/2023

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