COVID-19 Vaccine Roll-Out Recommendations for People with Down Syndrome*
Update as of March 4, 2021
The Washington State Department of Health has updated their COVID-19 vaccine guidance document to clarify that ALL caregivers of children or adults with developmental disabilities (paid or unpaid) qualify to receive the vaccine under the 1a priority group.
*When filling out the Phase Finder, answer Yes to the question about being a worker in a Healthcare setting. That will make you eligible. You take the email or screenshot that shows you are eligible via the Phase Finder to your appointment.
We know that many people with Down syndrome are at risk of experiencing severe illness from COVID-19. Like the general population, not everyone with Down syndrome who contracts the virus will have bad symptoms, but the likelihood of severe illness is higher. Because of this increased risk, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added Down syndrome to the list of medical conditions that make a person at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (see www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medicalconditions.html#downsyndrome).
In the last few months, the U.S. Government has approved and begun distribution of two vaccines – one manufactured by Pfizer and the other by Moderna. Both of these vaccines are shown to have over 90% efficacy protecting individuals from becoming sick from COVID-19. Both vaccines use the same technology – mRNA. This technology is similar to an instruction manual telling your body what to do if it comes into contact with the virus and how to fight it if you do get COVID-19. It does not contain the virus and will not give you the illness. Right now, the Moderna vaccine can be given to people 18 years and older while the Pfizer vaccine is approved for people 16 years and older.
Decisions about the distribution of the vaccine are being made at a state level. While the federal government has made recommendations about who should be vaccinated when, there is flexibility in prioritizing vaccine eligibility. Based on the federal recommendations, at a minimum, everyone with Down syndrome should receive a vaccine when Washington state is vaccinating people who are considered “high risk”, or phase 1c.
It is important to understand the Washington state plans and have a personal plan for how to access the vaccine once eligible. The DSC recommends the following:
- To assess Vaccine eligibility visit Phase Finder / Encuentra Tu Fase (findyourphasewa.org), and follow Washington State Department of Health on social media (Home :: Washington State Department of Health) and sign up to receive their emails. This will keep you up to date on who is currently eligible for a vaccine and how to get one.
- Call your physician. The ideal place to receive the vaccine is from a physician who is most familiar with the medical needs of your loved one with Down syndrome. Soon, individual medical offices will be able to distribute the vaccine, and it is important that you know if your physician will be participating. They will also be able to exercise their professional medical judgment about how they will distribute the vaccine among all their patients.
- Currently Washing state is in phase 1b, offering the vaccine to people age 75+ before they offer the vaccine to people with high-risk conditions. If the person with Down syndrome that you care for is over the age of 40, we ask that you reach out to your physician and/or DOH to share with them the results of the recent T21RS CCOVID-19 study (see www.t21rs.org/results-from-covid-19-and-down-syndrome-survey). It shows that individuals with Down syndrome over the age of 40 have the same risks as individuals without Down syndrome over the age of 80. We cannot promise that your loved one will be able to get the vaccine at this time, but it is an opportunity to advocate for them using this information.
- If your loved one with Down syndrome is not old enough to get the vaccine, the best way for their caregivers and people within their daily lives to protect them is to be vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. Caretakers should stay up to date on when they are eligible for the vaccine so they can receive the shot, thereby reducing possible exposure for their family member with Down Syndrome.
Ask to meet (virtually) with state health department leaders (Secretary of Health, Dr. Umair A. Shah, Chief of Staff, Jessica Todorovich, or Director of Center for Public Affairs, David Bayne), Share with them the T21RS COVID-19 survey and the information the CDC listing Down syndrome as a medical condition that places a person at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Encourage them to prioritize people with Down syndrome, particularly those who are over the age of 40 and those living in congregate settings, as soon as possible.
The DSC will continue to monitor the vaccination roll-out and provide information on how your loved one with Down syndrome can receive the vaccine. Please check our website for more information. If you have specific questions about the vaccine regarding someone with Down syndrome, please reach out to your physician.
*This information is adopted from data provided by NDSS and Washington State DOH