GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The state originally put people with Down syndrome in vaccination Group 2, giving them higher priority to get COVID shots. Now, they’re in Group 4. Advocates say this jeopardizes the lives of people with this genetic disorder.
Advocates from North Carolina Down Syndrome Alliance (NCDSA) are calling on state health officials to prioritize people with down syndrome for COVID shots.
“We wrote letters to (NC Department of Health & Human Services director) Dr. Mandy Cohen and to Governor Roy Cooper,” said Christina Reaves, Executive Director of NCDSA. “And we are asking that all our family members call in and explain how imperative it is, that our individuals with down syndrome are able to get the vaccine in priority group 2 and 3.”
The Centers for Disease Control classifies people with Down syndrome at an increased risk for severe illness from the virus.
“There’s research that they are ten times more likely to die of COVID-19 than a typical person,” Reaves said.
Severe illness is defined as hospitalization, intensive care treatment or even death. The CDC suggests people with the disorder be put in group two for vaccinations. Recently, the state placed them in group four, after health care workers, older adults and frontline essential workers.
Many people with Down syndrome live with elderly parents and may rely on care workers for support. Those workers often go home to home, increasing the risk of COVID exposure.
‘They are exposed through their community through their healthcare workers. They are going to school, they are working in the community. Parents are working and bringing the virus home,” Reaves said.
North Carolina will begin vaccinating Group 3 frontline essential workers on Feb. 24. The process will start with people working in child care or in Pre-k through 12th-grade schools, then move to other frontline essential workers on March 10. Those front-line employees must work in person and be a part of eight essential sectors.
The state says they will vaccinate people with Down syndrome in specific categories.
“Long term health care is one of those,” Reaves said. “And then if they are an essential worker. Many of our individuals with Down syndrome aren’t essential workers. And if you go to find my shot, and you type the typical information about any of the individuals that I know with down syndrome, they’re going to fall in category four.”
Reaves said vaccinating people with Down syndrome can help prevent straining hospital resources.
“If they use a ventilator, they’re more likely to stay in the hospital longer. And they’re such a small group, that if we isolate them go ahead and get them vaccinated, that they won’t be such a strain on the system,” Reaves said.
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