Update: Disability Response to CDC Director

On Friday, January 7, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky spoke in an interview about a research study showing that among vaccinated COVID-19 patients, 78% of those who died had four or more co-occurring conditions. In her full, unedited remarks, Dr. Walensky stated that these people “were unwell to begin with” and referred to these results as “really encouraging news.” Many disability organizations responded with a letter, which ASAN helped to organize, that expressed our collective horror and disappointment at these remarks, and outlined specific policy shifts that the CDC must make in order to begin to rebuild trust with the disability community. 

Representatives from several of the signatories to the letter, including ASAN, met with Dr. Walensky to discuss these necessary changes. A captioned video recording of the meeting is available here.

You can also find the transcript of the full meeting here.

In addition to the video of the full meeting available above, advocates have also made several shorter videos featuring clips from the meeting, below.

Disability advocates discuss the impact of Dr. Walensky’s words

Elena Hung of Little Lobbyists discusses the need for changed policies

Mia Ives Rublee of Disability Justice Initiative at the Center for American Progress unpacks access to testing

Natalie Kean of Justice in Aging explains the lack of booster access in congregate settings

Matthew Cortland of Data for Progress discusses the need for better guidance—for everyone

Maria Town of American Association of People with Disabilities discusses medical ableism

Jess Davidson of American Association of People with Disabilities discusses ableism during the pandemic

Following the meeting between leaders from disability rights organizations and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, advocates released a statement, which can be found here.

Moving forward, we are seeking follow-up meetings with the CDC; Dr. Walenksy committed to regular meetings with involvement from senior officials and herself. Our coalition will also meet with Secretary Becerra of Health and Human Services, and the White House, to advocate for a pandemic response that values disabled people. We will continue to share information when we can. We thank our community for raising their voices to let our government know that disabled lives are worth saving.