As we come out of a year of COVID-19 and the challenges that came with it, I reflect on some of my toughest, and brightest, moments. Among the top are the moments I’ve shared with my patients. I’ve seen them endure the devastating impact of isolation but have also heard the excitement and relief about their world’s opening back up.
In my clinic I see hundreds of individuals across the autism spectrum, of all ages. I have seen routines broken and opportunities for connection lacking. I’ve heard engagement with peers dramatically drop and have seen first-hand the regression this has caused.
During visits, my patients come to me sharing concerns about the vaccine and misinformation that they have heard. As a health care provider, I know the best way to boost quality of life is through returning to the community- through learning opportunities, engaging activities, and by surrounded ourselves with support systems.
It’s time for us to separate myths from facts. As a trusted provider serving the autism community for 25 years and an advocate for this population the entirety of my career, here are my biggest takeaways:
1- Review the data and facts; the vaccine is safe and trusted
2- The vaccine is needed for this population to return safely to society
3- The vaccine is vital to reestablish routine and connection, which ultimately contribute to quality of life
John, one of my patients, recently shared the following: ‘I continue to wear a mask to this day even though I am fully vaccinated and continue to follow public health guidelines. And I feel better since being vaccinated going out in public and my anxiety is better.’
Returning to group settings can be nerve-racking. In John’s case and in many others, the vaccine has benefits beyond the physical. Not only will it protect your body from illness, it can also improve mental health anxieties about returning to settings we were conditioned last year to avoid.
If you have questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor. You have my vote of confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine.
In partnership with the National Center on Disability in Public Health through University of Washington LEND, our goal is to promote vaccine confidence in the developmental disabilities population. To support our efforts in disseminating this information, please pass along this blog and accompanying materials. If you’re interested in disseminating broadly, please email Valerie Unger at [email protected] to provide the organization name and estimated number of people you will reach. Providing the numbers and regions this blog post reaches will help us in our ultimate goal to vaccinate all eligible people with disabilities.