When it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations, where do the blind fit in?

The Lighthouse Guild is raising public awareness about the visually impaired, a group that has been passed over for early access to vaccinations.

Legislators decided early on the order in which individuals could be vaccinated, starting with healthcare workers, persons in assisted-living facilities, and those over 75 years of age. 

In addition, those with comorbidities who did not fall into 1 of those categories also have been afforded early access to vaccinations.

However, the Lighthouse Guild is raising the consciousness about the visually impaired, a group that has been passed over for early access to vaccinations. The organization is calling for states to expand the eligibility and access to vaccines.

“Blindness needs to be included among those underlying conditions,” according to Calvin W. Roberts, MD, president and CEO of Lighthouse Guild. “We urge states across the country to include blindness on the list of underlying conditions that makes a person eligible to receive the vaccine now.” 

Any change in eligibility would affect more than1 million individuals in the US who are legally blind and facing “particular overwhelming obstacles due to the pandemic,” he stated.

This call for action is based on the recognition that isolation is challenging under the best of circumstances and may be more challenging for those who are visually impaired.

“We all want to be able to navigate our neighborhoods, but the signs and signals that sighted people use to move about in this changed world are not available to people who are blind,” Roberts said. 

Maintaining social distancing and determining if people in close proximity are wearing masks are challenging and can put blind individuals at increased risk of contracting the virus. In addition, the ability to use website to set up vaccination appointments should be made technologically accessible, Roberts pointed out. 

“We need to make sure that the over 1 million people in our country who are legally blind are not left out in the cold as our vaccination program moves forward,” according to Roberts. “We need to make sure that the over 1 million people in our country who are legally blind are not left out in the cold as our vaccination program moves forward.”