The world health climate regarding COVID-19 is seemingly never-ending. While new data constantly emerges that analyze risk factors and long-term effects, there is still so much the medical and scientific experts don’t yet know. For people living with Down Syndrome, there comes an elevated risk of short and long-term impacts from the virus due to a higher instance of underlying health issues that make them more vulnerable to the virus’s attacks. COVID-19 for people with Down Syndrome can be even more life-threatening, with a longer, more dangerous path to recovery than those without the disorder.

COVID-19 for People With Down Syndrome – Added Risks

Living with Down Syndrome comes with its own unique set of health challenges and hurdles to overcome. Common comorbid conditions and disorders that are frequently diagnosed in people living with Down Syndrome include:

  • Hearing impairment or loss
  • Impaired eyesight or complete loss of vision
  • Heart defects – Congenital heart disease affects nearly 50% of individuals born with Down Syndrome
  • Epilepsy
  • Celiac disease
  • Disruptive sleep patterns
  • Blood disorders – Children born with Down Syndrome are more likely to develop diseases like myelodysplastic syndrome, potentially cancerous conditions such as transient myeloproliferative disorder, and cancerous conditions like leukemia.
  • Immune system response problems – Individuals born with Down Syndrome are at higher risk for serious and major system infections due to a compromised immune system.

These unfortunate comorbid conditions can leave the body of someone living with Down Syndrome more vulnerable and more at risk to fight off more aggressive illnesses and viruses, such as COVID-19. 

living with down syndrome

Recently, a study led by Emory University researchers observed that individuals with Down Syndrome, over the age of 40, were 3 times more likely to pass from a COVID-19 infection than the rest of the population. This startling statistic brings to light the need for faster, and more efficient vaccine coverage for individuals with Down Syndrome.

Cases, where Down Syndrome patients were hospitalized, saw a higher instance of confusion and cognitive impairments when infected with COVID-19. The rate at which respiratory and viral pneumonia complications impacted patients was higher than in the rest of COVID-19 patients. 

Some research indicates that the risk is even higher for Down Syndrome patients as it pertains to the risks of a COVID-19 infection, with one study observing the risk may be as high as 10 times greater. The added complications that Down Syndrome comorbidities may present can cause an assault on the body, and as a result, a harder time fighting off the infection. Recovery may be even longer for those able to fight through infection. In some cases, the cognitive and other health issues that come with a Down Syndrome diagnosis can mean a longer, harder battle.

The COVID-19 Vaccine – Prioritizing Our Down Syndrome Loved Ones

As we continue to battle the pandemic, it’s important to elevate and lift those amongst us who are more at risk than our healthier, and less vulnerable populations. When this article was written, the CDC has not yet classified people with Down Syndrome as high risk enough to have priority for the vaccine. The National Down Syndrome Society has issued documents and instructions on how best to proceed with getting you or your loved one with Down Syndrome access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Please follow this link to help expedite availability.

GLOBAL’s Important COVID-19 Work | Global Down Syndrome Foundation

Some availability is determined on the state level and is left to medical practitioners to determine if cognitive developmental disabilities qualify patients for the vaccine. It is best to inquire with your medical professional to learn whether you or a loved one can be moved up the list for access to the vaccine. 

Keeping Our Loved Ones Safe – Advocating for the Down Syndrome Community

COVID-19 for people with Down Syndrome can be an unrecoverable and devastating infection. As many individuals living with the disorder reside in group homes or high traffic establishments, it’s important to protect their health and take the proper recommended steps to ensure they stay healthy. 

If you would like more resources to better support friends and loved ones living with Down Syndrome, please visit websites like the National Association for Down Syndrome or the National Down Syndrome Society. For inspirational current updates on the global Down Syndrome community, check out the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. The best way to help keep our friends and family safe is to be proactive, and to make their health an important priority!

Roughly 6,000 babies are born with Down Syndrome in the United States alone each year. While there is no clear understanding as to why the genetic mutation occurs that results in a baby receiving 47 chromosomes instead of the 46 we need, researchers continue to search for the answer. 

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