Down Syndrome advocates push for vaccine prioritization


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV)- A national effort is underway to qualify people with Down Syndrome as high risk. The hope is they can get the COVID-19 vaccine sooner, rather than later.

Studies show people with the condition are 10 times more likely to die once infected. This is due to a number of factors including the comorbidity factor with other illnesses like lung or heart disease.

Nicole Allen has a three year old with Down Syndrome and in pandemic they’re living a certain way.

“I’m pretty much keeping him in a box, away from people,” said Allen, “sometimes he wears a mask, but just like I said he’s three so that mask does come off.”

1 in 700 babies are born with down syndrome each year and Allen would be the first to tell you no two are the same.

“Every child is different, with health issues and stuff like that,” said Allen, “some have heart problems some don’t.

“Some are verbal and some are not, so a lot of them can’t tell you how they feel,” she added.

The communication barrier can increase the likelihood of poor outcomes when it comes to infection.

In a letter to the state, the National Down Syndrome Society (NDS) is pleading with health agencies to also consider other factors.

“so many individuals with Down Syndrome have so many complicated medical problems and they’re not always all diagnosed,” Dr. Ben Spitalnick, a pediatrician at Savannah Pediatric Associates.

“Just having Down Syndrome itself should be the inclusion criteria for being high risk,” he added.

WSAV News 3 did reach out the Georgia department of health and they gave us this statement.

“There are many groups, associations and societies who have written similar letters, outlining similar needs and concerns. The bottom line is vaccine supply is limited and that is the reason we have to prioritize. we are basing our prioritization on CDC recommendations.”

Nancy Nydam, Georgia Dept. of Public Health

Dr. Spitalnick says specific heart and immunity diseases will give priority to some people with Down Syndrome.

The CDC updated its list of conditions that carry an “increased risk of severe illness from the virus that causes covid-19” in late december to include down syndrome, however, vaccine prioritization is up to individual states.

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