COVID-19 Vaccines and Disability: What You Need to Know

/ June 15, 2021

(Editor’s note: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact on many people with developmental disabilities, including on their employment. Having good information helps keep our communities protected as we get back to our regular activities, including going back to work or finding a new job.)

By Jolene Sharp

If you’re a person with a disability, a caregiver, or a direct support professional who still has questions about COVID-19 vaccines, you’re not alone.

You might have questions about safety. You might wonder whether to trust health officials.

Medical experts in the past haven’t always gotten things right for people with disabilities and other groups. General vaccine information often doesn’t answer disability-related questions. Family members or friends may be telling you the vaccine isn’t safe.

Jolene Sharp and her family

We’ve heard your questions and concerns, and the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities and our partners are here to help. In the coming weeks, we’ll be working with several organizations to share disability-specific vaccine information and to connect you with resources. Our partners include:

We know vaccination is a personal decision. We’re here to help you feel comfortable protecting yourself and those you love.

Four Things to Know

There are some important disability-related facts to know about COVID-19 and vaccines. Keep a lookout for more information from the DD Council and our partners in coming weeks.

  • People with intellectual or developmental disabilities are at high risk from COVID-19. Studies show that people with IDD are more likely to die from COVID-19 than people without disabilities. (See and That makes it especially important for our community to be protected.
  • Data show the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for people with disabilities. As of May 31, 2021, nearly 300 million doses of vaccine have been given in the United States. That includes many people with all types of disabilities. Vaccine side effects for the COVID-19 vaccine have been tracked more closely than for any other vaccine in U.S. history, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data show that serious side effects are extremely rare and usually treatable within minutes, right on site where you receive the vaccine. Most people experience no side effects or short-term side effects such as:
    • Swelling, redness, and pain where you get your shot
    • Fever
    • Headache
    • Tiredness
    • Muscle pain
    • Chills
    • Nausea
  • If you love someone with IDD, getting the vaccine yourself is the best way to protect them. The more people around you who are vaccinated, the stronger the protection.
  • BIG NEWS!! If you have a disability, you and your caregivers and family members can now get the vaccine in your own home. A nurse will come to your home to give you and any other adults (18 or older) in your home the vaccine for FREE, anywhere in the state. All disabilities are eligible for in-home vaccines. You will not need to give proof of your disability. Contact your local Center for Independent Living for information about getting your in-home vaccine.

If You’ve Already Gotten the Vaccine

If you’re vaccinated and are looking for other ways to help your community, consider joining the COVID-19 Community Corps. You’ll get regular updates to share with family and friends and on social media. Find more information and join at

Protect the Ones You Love!

One of our Council members, Clancey Hopper, said it best: “The reason I am so thankful I got vaccinated was out of love for my fellow man! Love always triumphs and prevails!”
Jolene did a fantastic job of pulling all this information together for me quickly, and I very much appreciate her efforts. I think all of us are wanting to get “re-engaged” with so many of the activities we’ve been unable to do for the past 15 months—see family and friends, get back to our places of employment, go to the movies or to the Dollar Store (a particular favorite of one of my favorite people.) Let’s do all this as safely as we can! I’ve been fully vaccinated since mid-January, and I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to receive the vaccine as early as I did. I hope each of you will take the opportunities now available—in your home, if you like—to be vaccinated as well. As always, if you have questions or concerns, please email me at

Jolene Sharp is chief public information officer for the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities. She is the parent of two children with developmental disabilities, Corin and Lina. She lives in Brentwood, TN, with her family and their COVID addition, a shepherd-mix rescue named Reilly.

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