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‘Our lives have been put on hold for an entire year’; Coalition says people with disabilities should have received vaccine priority

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - People in Indiana with specific disabilities, like muscular dystrophy, became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine the second week of March.

Leaders with the group called #HighRiskIN say it should have happened much sooner. 

Teri Whitaker is the leader of the coalition. She is living with muscular dystrophy, making her at high risk for COVID-19. 

“My lungs work at about 25 percent of a normal adult's lung and I use a ventilator at night,” Whitaker said. "I have been in my home for practically a year.” 

She just got her COVID-19 vaccine a few weeks ago, but she says it should have been sooner. 

"Our lives have been put on hold for an entire year, and that vaccination for many of us is hope in a vial,” she said. “I can't wait to go out grocery shopping again, see my family, my friends, all those things that people take for granted that we have not been able to do.” 

She says the coalition was formed in February to fight for people with disabilities to get earlier access to the vaccine. She says they have been in contact with state leaders about the issue, but nothing changed.

"Now that we’ve opened up to everyone,” Whitaker said. “There’s a back log of people with high-risk conditions that are not going to get priority because the state waited until the end practically.” 

Jalyn Radziminski is a member of the coalition and the founder of the Fort Wayne non-profit Count US IN. 

"Obviously today you can go online if you're 16 older and sign up,” Radziminski said. “You have people with disabilities who have been fighting throughout the entire COVID crisis and they’re still being pushed to the back of the line.” 

She says they’ve partnered with the coalition to help fight for the rights of people with disabilities during the pandemic.  

“We just want to help advocate for people who need access, that’s all we are trying to do.” 

Whitaker says if people with disabilities are struggling to get their COVID-19 vaccine, they can call 211 or reach out to her at Info@insilc.org. 

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Karli VanCleave

Karli VanCleave is a multimedia journalist at WPTA for the evening newscast. Karli is a Fort Wayne native and Indiana University Bloomington graduate.
Feel free to connect with her on Facebook (@KarliVanCleaveNews) and Twitter (@Karli_VanCleave), or if you have a story idea send her an email at kvancleave@wpta21.com.

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