Last Friday the California Department of Public Health published new guidance stating that beginning March 15, healthcare providers may use their clinical judgement to vaccinate individuals age 16-64 who are deemed to be at the very highest risk for morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 as a direct result of one or more of the following severe health conditions:

  • Cancer, current with debilitated or immunocompromised state
  • Chronic kidney disease, stage 4 or above
  • Chronic pulmonary disease, oxygen dependent
  • Down syndrome
  • lmmunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies (excludes hypertension)
  • Severe obesity (Body Mass Index 2 is greater or equal to 40 kg/m2)
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus with hemoglobin Al c level greater than 7.5%


If as a result of a developmental or other severe high-risk disability, one or more of the following applies:

  • The individual is likely to develop severe life-threatening illness or death from COVID-19 infection
  • Acquiring COVID-19 will limit the individual’s ability to receive ongoing care or services vital to their well-being and survival
  • Providing adequate and timely COVID care will be particularly challenging as a result of the individual’s disability.

At a press conference on February 8, Governor Newsom acknowledged that Californians with developmental disabilities have not received enough vaccines.

He said, “We’ve got to take care of the most vulnerable. And people in the developmentally disabled community, with all the unique challenges and opportunities that present them in their lives, these vaccines need to be prioritized. And I’m committing to doing that.”

Family Caregivers and Direct Support Staff are Prioritized for Vaccines, as Confirmed in New Letters from Department of Developmental Services

Last week the California Department of Developmental Services confirmed that family caregivers, direct support staff, and certain regional center employees are eligible for phase 1A vaccine prioritization. These letters can be helpful for families, service providers, and regional centers in access to phase 1A vaccines if encountering challenges at the county level.

For Direct Service Employees

For Family Members

For Certain Regional Center Employees


The purpose of this letter is to clarify that family members of certain people are “health care workers” pursuant to the State of California’s Vaccination Plan and thus are prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination within Phase 1A.


The purpose of this letter is to clarify that these providers’ employees who provide direct care, in-home-support and other health and developmental services are “health care workers” pursuant to the State of California’s Vaccination Plan, and thus are prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination within Phase 1A.

These contracted service providers include, but are not limited to:

  • Intermediate care facilities for persons who need non-continuous nursing supervision and supportive care
  • Other licensed adult residential facilities
  • Congregate living health facilities
  • Home health care and in-home supportive services
  • Community health workers, including promotoras
  • Supported living and independent living services providers
  • Family home agencies and their subcontractors
  • Other in-home service providers, including individuals such as respite workers, clinical staff, applied behavioral analysis providers, staff providing independent living skills training, and staff providing Early Start services



Last week The Arc of California submitted comments to the newly established Community Vaccine Advisory Committee within the California Department of Public Health. Our comments stressed the heroic work of direct support professionals and family caregivers during the pandemic protecting the health of people with disabilities – who are more likely to develop serious illness if infected with COVID-19. We urged the committee to prioritize the IDD community when the state determines guidelines for access and distribution of vaccines. Our submitted comments can be viewed here

Additionally, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) has developed this FAQ on COVID-19 vaccine distribution considerations fo the disability community.

To learn more about the Community Vaccine Advisory Committee and California’s vaccination plan go to