Home > Uncategorized > DDS residents are likely to get vaccinated in January, but questions remain about vaccine priority list

DDS residents are likely to get vaccinated in January, but questions remain about vaccine priority list

Residents of Department of Developmental Services facilities will get vaccinated in January, according to an email this week from DDS Commissioner Jane Ryder to a COFAR member.

Ryder’s message still seems ambiguous, however, as to exactly where DDS residents fall within Phase 1 of the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine distribution plan.

It appears residents of DDS group homes and developmental centers are included in Phase 1 of the plan, which stretches from this month through February. But DDS facilities are not specifically mentioned in the plan, and Ryder’s statement appears unclear as to whether DDS clients are closer to the top or the bottom of the Phase 1 priority order.

On December 2, I emailed both Ryder and state Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders to ask whether the Baker administration will include DDS residents and staff in its plans for distribution of the first doses of the vaccine that Massachusetts gets.

To date — two weeks later — there has been no response from either Ryder or Sudders to my query.

However, in a Monday email to a COFAR member, who had asked the same question, Ryder wrote the following:

We are all so optimistic now that the vaccines have begun to arrive in Massachusetts. The vaccinations of our group homes are in Phase 1 of the Governor’s distribution plan. Hospital and Long Term Care facilities will be first.  We expect that group homes will come on line in January. (my emphasis)

We are currently working with the Department of Public Health and the Command Center in the logistics.  We will be keeping all families informed as we finalize the plan. The most important thing we are stressing is the importance of continued vigilance including mask wearing, good hygiene and social distancing.

First, we are not exactly sure what Ryder means in saying group homes will “come on line.” But we think she means everyone in the group home system will get vaccinated in January. If so, that would seem to be good news because Phase 1 is supposed to stretch from December through February.

However, what is ambiguous and possibly misleading in Ryder’s message is that it appears — if you don’t read it carefully — to include group homes in the category of long-term care facilities. Moreover, Ryder says those facilities “will be first.”

In fact, long-term care facilities aren’t first on the priority list under Phase 1, and it doesn’t appear that group homes are even considered long-term care facilities on that list.

The Phase 1 order (see below) lists long-term care facilities as second on the vaccine priority order, behind healthcare workers. Secondly, we think the group homes category actually falls under congregate-care settings, which is fourth on the list.

As noted, the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Plan doesn’t actually mention DDS group homes. The Phase 1 order is:

1. Clinical and non-clinical healthcare workers doing “direct and COVID-facing care”
2. Long-term care facilities, rest homes, and assisted living facilities
3. Police, fire, and emergency medical services
4. Congregate care settings (including corrections and shelters)
5. Home-based healthcare workers
6. Healthcare workers “doing non-COVID-facing care.”

If you read Ryder’s statement carefully, she does not actually say group homes fall under long-term care facilities. Her statement seems carefully worded. As we mentioned, Ryder’s statement makes it sound as though group homes are first on the list. But we don’t think they are.

While we are sure that most DDS families and guardians would not second guess the Phase 1 priority list, we think those families have a right to clear and accurate information about where their loved ones fall on that list. We hope either Commissioner Ryder or Secretary Sudders are willing, as Ryder says they are, to provide that clear information.

Additional information about the state’s vaccine distribution efforts can be found here.

  1. Cindy Barich
    December 16, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Thank you for your update and good reporting.

    Will residents who are 65 years or older be prioritized?


    • December 16, 2020 at 1:39 pm

      You’re welcome! I’m changing my previous answer because I think I misread your question. While members of the general population who are over 65 are listed under Phase 2 of the plan, which goes from February through April, all residents of DDS facilities are in Phase 1. There is no age differentiation in Phase 1, as we understand it.


  2. Joe
    December 16, 2020 at 3:52 pm

    Thanks Dave. Great info as always.
    I assumed Cindy’s question referred to prioritizing 65+ within the categories of longterm care and congregate settings.


    • December 16, 2020 at 4:58 pm

      Thanks, Joe. I think I mistakenly assumed Cindy was referring to anyone 65 or older. There is no age differentiation within long-term care and congregate settings. Everyone in those settings is in Phase 1.


  3. Deborah A Lockard
    December 16, 2020 at 9:25 pm

    Thank you for sharing this information, and your tireless efforts to advocate and protect our loved ones.


  4. Sara
    March 10, 2021 at 10:01 am

    Am interested in trying to fin d out why the Adult Day Programs are not included in this round of vaccines. They are also a “congregate setting” as well and must get the client’s vaccinated.


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