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India to give priority to people with Down syndrome for covid-19 jabs

The US’ centre for disease control (CDC), UK and Spain included those with Down syndrome in the list of 'high-risk’ individuals. from covid-19. (AP)Premium
The US’ centre for disease control (CDC), UK and Spain included those with Down syndrome in the list of 'high-risk’ individuals. from covid-19. (AP)

  • Adults with Down syndrome were around three times more likely to die from covid-19 than the general population, according to research published by Lancet
  • Down syndrome is one of the most common disorders with an estimated 30,000 cases in India every year

NEW DELHI: India plans to prioritise people with Down syndrome for covid-19 vaccination, after the US’ centre for disease control (CDC), UK and Spain included those with the genetic condition in the list of 'high-risk’ individuals.

The development came after a global research involving Down syndrome patients from Europe, the US, Latin America and India was published in Lancet's 'EClinical Medicine'. Adults with Down syndrome were around three times more likely to die from covid-19 than the general population, according to the research. As Down syndrome is one of the most common disorders with an estimated 30,000 cases in India every year, Indian government officials are planning to include the condition in the category of “high risk" population group.

“We will propose to include the Down syndrome patients in comorbid (high-risk) category in the next meeting on vaccine strategy. Down syndrome is a co morbid condition in which patients have problems in their physiological functions. It will be good to include them in the priority group under nationwide covid-19 vaccination programme," Dr Samiran Panda, head of epidemiology and communicable diseases division, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) told Mint. Panda is also a member of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for covid-19 (NEGVAC), which is tasked with coming out with strategies for fair distribution.

Down's syndrome is a genetic condition typically caused by the trisomy—or having an extra copy—of chromosome 21. This extra copy changes how a baby's body and brain develop, which can cause both mental and physical challenges. The scientists said that this increased risk was especially apparent from the fifth decade of life: A 40-year-old with Down syndrome had a similar risk of dying from covid-19 as someone 30 years older in the general population.

"Our results, which are based on more than 1,000 covid-19 unique patients with Down syndrome, show that individuals with Down syndrome often have more severe symptoms at hospitalization and experience high rates of lung complications associated with increased mortality," said Anke Huels, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, and the study's first author. "These results have implications for preventive and clinical management of covid-19 patients with Down syndrome and emphasize the need to prioritize individuals with Down syndrome for vaccination," Huels said.

To collect data for the study, T21RS covid-19 Initiative launched an international survey of clinicians and caregivers of individuals with Down syndrome infected with covid-19 between April and October, 2020. The T21RS covid-19 Initiative is part of an effort established in March 2020 by the Trisomy 21 Research Society (T21RS) to gather and disseminate scientific information to support communities of individuals with Down syndrome and their families internationally during the pandemic.

"Partly based on our findings, the CDC included Down syndrome in the list of 'high-risk medical conditions,' which will prioritize those with this genetic condition for vaccination," said co-author Alberto Costa, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Ohio. "Similar decisions have been made in the United Kingdom and Spain, and we hope that other countries will soon follow," Costa said.

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