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While Covid-19 fills most people with dread, for those with Down syndrome (DS), it can make you especially vulnerable to respiratory viruses. They are dealing wit a stacked deck against them in terms of dealing with the virus.
Among groups at higher risk of dying from COVID-19, such as people with diabetes, people with DS stand out: if infected, they are five times more likely to be hospitalized and 10 times more likely to die than the general population, according to a study in the U.K. from October. And percent studies back this up.
Researchers suspect background immune abnormalities, combined with extra copies of key genes in people with DS make them more vulnerable to severe COVID-19. They really need the protective policies put in place.
The U.K. recommended prioritizing people with DS for speedy vaccination. But the more than 200,000 Americans with DS so far are not slated for early vaccination. Nor has the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention included DS in its list of conditions it says boost the risk for severe COVID-19.
The extraordinary risk is still there even after factoring in things like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and living in a group home. And people with DS who are 40 and older bear the most risk – a mortality rate of 51% versus 7% for those under 40. This is comparable to those over 80 in the general population. They are thinking the 3 extra copies of a gene on chromosome 21 enables the virus to hijack it and enter human cells. T-cells don’t develop properly in people with DS, and levels of circulating B cells are low. So are levels of key proteins that prevent immune cells from attacking the body’s own tissues.
An international Trisomy 21 Research Society is calling for people with DS, especially those over 40, to be prioritized for early vaccination. The CDC list of those at risk for severe COVID-19 is not exhaustive and may not include every condition. But they can update its list as science evolves.
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