JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added those with Down syndrome to the list of people at an increased risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19, but Florida has not added that group to its priority list.
A campaign called #AShotAtTheShot is aiming to change that.
People with the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville say the campaign is important because a new British study shows those with Down syndrome are five times more likely to be hospitalized and 10 times more likely to die from COVID-19.
“The impact of the virus has been tremendous for him," said Debbie Revels, executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville.
Revels said her 34-year-old son Nick, who has Down syndrome, feels isolated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He wants to get the shot because he wants to see his girlfriend," Revels said. "He wants to go to work. He wants to get back into the routine he had before like playing sports, going out to the movies, and going out to restaurants.”
Dr. Elizabeth Ransom with Baptist Health said the CDC recently recommended those with Down syndrome have priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine, but the State of Florida has not taken action.
“Down syndrome patients are on the list who are on the list to get the vaccine, so certainly, if and when available, it would be important for those individuals to get vaccinated," Dr. Ransom said.
“Most of them have underlying issues," Revels said. "Many of them have heart defects and heart issues, respiratory issues, diabetes, so they’re certainly in that category of high risk.”
The campaign urges people to contact their local elected leaders and ask them to offer the vaccine to those with Down syndrome who are over the age of 16.
“We understand so many people need the vaccine," Revels said. "We’re just hoping our elected officials will hear our voice and our community members will get involved in the campaign to kind of encourage the process to move a little quicker for our individuals.”
People with the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville say they respect the rights of every family to make their own decisions on whether to get the COVID-19 shot but want to make sure the Down syndrome community has access to it.