ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — As COVID-19 vaccines continue to roll out across the state, one group is raising concerns over distribution. The North Carolina Down Syndrome Alliance said it wants people with Down syndrome to be prioritized.
“There are very many coexisting conditions for people with Down syndrome,” said Donna Beckmann, the parent of a son with Down syndrome.
Beckmann also serves as the advocacy and outreach director for the North Carolina Down Syndrome Alliance.
“People with Down syndrome are at a higher risk for respiratory issues, as well as 30 to 50% of people with Down syndrome are born with some type of a heart defect,” she said.
Beckmann said two national Down syndrome organizations sent a letter last week to Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary for NCDHHS, asking her to prioritize vaccines for people with Down syndrome.
NCDHHS sent News 13 this statement:
We’re currently reviewing the latest CDC guidance and ACIP recommendations and are in process of determining what updates are needed for our prioritization plan to ensure we can slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.”
Beckmann said there is a wide range for when people with Down syndrome will get their vaccines.
She referenced her son saying, “He has one chronic condition, so he’s in level two. However, if you are an adult without a condition, you’re in level three or four.”
Beckmann added that making people with Down syndrome wait is risky because they are more likely to live in group homes or live with elderly parents.
She also said that her son, like others with Down syndrome, has a higher threshold of pain and would be less able to communicate the severity of his symptoms if he got COVID-19.
“By the time that his behavior alerts us to an issue, it might very well be at a critical stage,” she said.
Down syndrome is not listed by the CDC as a condition with an increased risk for COVID-19. However, in the UK, for example, it is.
One study out of the University of Oxford found that people with Down syndrome are 10 times more likely to die from COVID-19.
“We just celebrated his 20th year, so we have a pretty good track record and I would like to keep that track record going,” Beckmann said.
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