According to a study published in the UK, people with Down syndrome are 10 times more likely to die from COVID, oftentimes due to their higher incidence of comorbidities. However, Quebec has yet to prioritize individuals with disabilities to receive the coronavirus vaccination.
The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reads, "Down syndrome is the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability, with multiorgan manifestations (3). Predisposition to pneumonias and acute respiratory distress syndrome in children, airway anomalies, pulmonary hypoplasia, and inhibited pulmonary angiogenesis have been reported (4, 5).
We are unaware of the effects of Down syndrome on COVID-19 outcomes being reported elsewhere yet during this pandemic. Novel evidence that specific conditions may confer elevated risk should be used by public health organizations, policymakers, and health care workers to strategically protect vulnerable individuals."
The Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS) is an organization trying to ensure the equitable treatment of this vulnerable population.
CDSS reports that they have written to all Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Health, "at this difficult time, we call on and encourage Canadian governments and regional ethics committees to ensure basic human rights are upheld."
In a recent statement, CDSS stated, "CDSS has asked that individuals with Down syndrome over 40 years of age should be grouped for consideration with the individuals of advanced age in the general population. As such, the prioritization recommendations should consider any individual with Down syndrome over 16 years of age, the general youngest age of population studied during vaccine development. There has been no research to date on younger children. At this time, we do not expect an announcement for vaccine availability for children (under 16)."
Some provinces like Saskatchewan and BC have already added adults with significant disabilities to their second or third phases of vaccinations, but Quebec has not yet made any changes to their age-based schedule.
CDSS isn't alone in the fight to protect this at-risk population. Local advocate, Sarah Lusthaus started a Change.org petition requesting the prioritization of people with down syndrome in receiving the COVID vaccine due to their significantly higher risk for COVID complications.
The petition reads, "Scientific medical studies published since October 2020 consistently have found that adults with Down Syndrome are at a significantly greater risk of COVID than others: they are 5 times more likely to be hospitalized and 10 times more likely to die. Due to their genetics, their medical age is many decades older than their chronological age. In fact, the international Trisomy 21 Research Society reported the risk to those with DS aged 40 and is comparable to the general population aged 80."
The petition will be sent to the following decision-makers:
Dr. Horacio Arruda Directeur national de las sante publique
Comite sur l'immunization du Quebec (CIQ)
M. Christian Dube Ministre de las Sante et des Services sociaux
M. Lionel Carmant Ministre deleguee a la Sante et aux Services sociaux
National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI)
Dr. Theresa Tam Chief Public Health Officer of Canada