Vaccinating Children with Disabilities Against COVID-19

Information for Vaccine Providers and Partners Planning Vaccination

CDC recommends everyone 5 years and older get vaccinated against COVID-19 ─ including children with disabilities who may be at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

This page includes strategies to improve COVID-19 vaccine accessibility for children with disabilities and special healthcare needs.

A Greater Risk for COVID-19

Many children with disabilities have underlying medical conditions ─ such as lung, heart, or kidney disease, a weakened immune system, cancer, diabetes, some blood diseases, or conditions of the muscular or central nervous system ─ which put them at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Similarly, children with developmental disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, an intellectual disability, or autism, may be at increased risk of mental health concerns from social isolation and severe illness from COVID-19. They may  also have barriers to accessing needed health care and  other characteristics that increase their risk of becoming infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, including

  • Limited mobility
  • Need for support services
  • Challenges practicing preventive measures, such as wearing a mask
  • Challenges communicating symptoms of infection

A special healthcare need can include physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities, as well as long-standing medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, a blood disorder, or muscular dystrophy. Children and youth with special healthcare needs require more care for their physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional differences than their typically developing peers.

Learn more about Children and Youth with Special Healthcare Needs in Emergencies.

Accessibility Strategies for Children with Disabilities at COVID-19 Vaccination Sites

Consider implementing and supporting the following strategies and vaccination accommodations to ensure children with disabilities and special healthcare needs – and their caregivers, family members, and service providers – under your care can receive their COVID-19 vaccinations at the clinic location:

Physical ease of access

  • Schedule longer appointment times to ensure children feel comfortable before, during, and after vaccination.
  • If possible, allow children to get vaccinated in their parent’s or caregiver’s vehicle.
  • Consider having someone at the entrance of the vaccination site dedicated to assisting those who may need help with a wheelchair, walker, or other aid and those requesting other accommodations.
  • Allow children and their families to walk around while being observed after vaccination.

10 Tips from Special Olympics Athletes on How to Make COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics Inclusive

Special Olympics partnered with Jefferson Center for Autism and Neurodiversity to raise COVID-19 vaccine awareness.

Smiling boy holding his dog

Children are allowed by law to have their service animal accompany them at COVID-19 vaccination sites.

Sensory ease of access

  • Make sensory modifications where needed, as some children may be sensitive to light, sounds, smells, or physical touch that vaccination requires.
  • Limit the time children must wait, and be patient, considering each child’s individual needs.
  • If possible, offer a separate, more private space or “quiet room” away from crowds or others.
  • See Needle Fears and Phobia – Find Ways to Manage for more information and resources.

Cognitive ease of access

To ensure all children with disabilities in your community have access to the COVID-19 vaccine, you can collaborate with

  • Pediatric medical providers and healthcare organizations
  • State or local health departments
  • Local school districts
  • Disability-specific practices and clinics
  • Pediatric occupational, physical, and speech therapists
  • Children’s hospitals
  • Community-based organizations serving children with disabilities

Remember, children with disabilities and special healthcare needs benefit most from team-based careexternal icon. Trusted care providers can work with parents and caregivers to learn and address any specific vaccination concerns.

COVID-19 Vaccine Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL)external icon

Share DIAL with parents and families of children with disabilities. Let them know they can call 1-888-677-1199 Monday–Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. or email DIAL@usaginganddisability.org for help with

  • Finding local vaccination locations
  • Making appointments
  • Connecting to local services such as accessible transportation
Vaccine Safety Monitoring

To help monitor vaccine safety

  • Report serious health events occurring after vaccination to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration review VAERS data to identify potential safety concerns. Learn more: Ensuring COVID-19 Vaccine Safety in the United States.
  • Encourage families to enroll children in v-safe. v-safe provides personalized and confidential health check-ins to share how their child feels after their COVID-19 vaccination.

Report multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)

Additional Resources
Page last reviewed: April 19, 2022