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LA County Mandates COVID Shots For In-Home Care Workers

A man who suffers from cerebral palsy sits at a desk in front of a large-screen desktop computer and uses his feet to type on the keyboard.
People like Tim Jin, who has cerebral palsy, want the state to mandate COVID vaccines for home healthcare workers.
(Jackie Fortiér
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In-home health aides perform intimate, everyday tasks such as feeding and bathing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They are paid through the state’s regional center network, but those jobs have so far not been included on any of the state health department’s coronavirus vaccine requirements.

That’s changing in Los Angeles County. LAist obtained a letter sent by county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis to regional center administrators on Sept. 9, clarifying that in-home care workers are included in a previous county health order requiring workers to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30. With the deadline fast approaching, workers can only get the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine since both Pfizer and Moderna’s require weeks between doses.

Studies done during the pandemic show that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities often have underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to COVID-19 and twice as likely to die if they get infected.

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“We really hope that the state of California looks at L.A. County as a model,” said Judy Mark, president of Disability Voices United, an advocacy group.

Health workers in California hospitals, nursing homes and adult day care centers must be vaccinated or file a medical or religious exemption by the end of September, but so far the state hasn’t included in-home health aides, even though they do the same intimate work. Mark says the 200,000 Californians with developmental disabilities outside of L.A. County should also be protected.

Some experts and people in the industry fear a statewide vaccine mandate for these workers may exacerbate the current staffing crisis.

“We acknowledge the staffing crisis,” Mark said. “But we know there are other counties in the state that are not going to be as forward thinking as L.A., so we need the state to act. These are people who cannot shower on their own or toilet on their own, so we have to make sure that they are protected.”

What questions do you have about the pandemic and health care?
Jackie Fortiér helps Southern Californians understand the pandemic by identifying what's working and what's not in our health response.

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