People With Disabilities Wait Anxiously to Get Vaccinated

Karen Cortes says many like her who have disabilities need to be prioritized for vaccines so they can stay safe

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They call themselves the forgotten. Many people with disabilities and underlying conditions say the state is bypassing them by using ages to determine when people can get a COVID-19 vaccine.

They also say many of them are living in fear because their turn might not come up for months, and they may not survive a fight against the coronavirus.

Karen Cortes has limb-girdle muscular dystrophy subtype 2-I. At her age — early 40s — and at this rate, she may not qualify for a vaccine for months.

She smiles as much as she can, but behind that smile, there is a real concern.

"It's unbearable at times," she said. "It's really getting indescribable."

The type of muscular dystrophy that Cortes has takes her muscles away, so if she were to get the coronavirus, her lungs and heart might not stand a chance.

"When it first came out that it was a really severe respiratory illness, that immediately kind of stopped me in my tracks because of respiratory weakness," she said. "I can't effectively cough. So then you think about someone like me that can get pneumonia."

Cortes says many like her who have disabilities need to be prioritized to help them stay safe.

"There’s a life-saving vaccine and we're being denied it," she said. "It's crushing."

In response to NBC Bay Area's question about Cortes' concerns, Gov. Gavin Newsom's office sent a link to Monday's news conference in San Diego where the governor talked with the state health director about the issue.

"Neither of us are satisfied with the progress in this space. And we made a commitment to each figure this out once and for all by the end of the week," Newsom said.

In the meantime, Cortes said she's just trying to hang on to hope.

"You throw pandemic fatigue on top of disability fatigue and we’re all being pushed to a brink," she said. "The struggle is hard, it's hard."

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