Milwaukee Mom Gets More than 2500 COVID Vaccines for Residents with Disabilities and Their Families with Support from Waisman UCEDD

July 19, 2023

The Waisman Center’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), in partnership with the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, recently supported a grant to Parent University to help increase outreach and access to COVID-19 vaccines for individuals of color and individuals with disabilities in the greater Milwaukee area. Parent University, an organization in Milwaukee founded by Delores Sallis, serves as a resource and support network for Black and other families of color and their loved ones with disabilities. The grant has helped support her efforts in bringing the COVID-19 vaccine to individuals with disabilities in Milwaukee. She has been able to provide more than 2,500 vaccines to individuals with disabilities and their families in partnership with Hayat Pharmacy in Milwaukee.

Sallis’ advocacy and work is inspired by her experiences as a parent of a child with disabilities. Her son Albert, who passed in 2021, had multiple disabilities. She established Parent University to support families of individuals with disabilities with information, training, and leadership opportunities so that they can be the best advocates for their loved ones as possible. When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted so much for individuals with disabilities, Sallis realized that gaining reliable information on the vaccine and access to it was of major importance. “A lot of people I know did not trust the vaccine. There were lots of myths out there. They needed to trust someone they knew who already had the vaccine. My parent groups brought people together, so everyone was getting the same vaccine from the same trusted source at the same time. People were with their friends and neighbors,” Sallis says.

The grant funds have allowed Sallis to continue to hold vaccine clinics and provide hundreds of individuals with disabilities in the Milwaukee area with the COVID-19 vaccine. Sallis has held vaccine clinics in several places including the African American Women’s Center and other community spaces. In addition to the vaccine, the clinics always included a full meal and a resource table with gifts Sallis also found ways to overcome barriers to accessing the vaccine and drove dozens of people to vaccine appointments and partnered with Hayat to set up in-home vaccinations when needed. In one household alone, 18 people got a shot.

“The mission of the Waisman Center UCEDD is to support the full inclusion and self-determination of people with developmental disabilities and their families,” says Leann DaWalt, PhD, director of the Waisman UCEDD. “Providing evidence-based information about the COVID-19 vaccine and support in accessing the vaccine is one example of how we carry out that mission.”