Pretoria, 08th July 2021
Down Syndrome South Africa seeks priority access to COVID-19 vaccines for individuals with Down syndrome
Down Syndrome South Africa (DSSA), calls on the national Department of Health to immediately proritise vaccines for individuals with Down syndrome 18 and above, including all those in residential facilities and not just by age co-horts, their primary caregivers and support staff. In a survey conducted by DSSA, 94% of families indicated that they wanted their children to be vaccinated.
Down Syndrome South Africa, a non-profit umbrella body was established in 1986, as a parent advocacy organisation for the promotion and protection of the Constitutional rights of all persons with Down syndrome and their families. The organisation has 12 regional associations and support groups throughout the country.
On the 30th January 2020 the WHO organisation declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, of importance was the policy brief issued by the WHO and UNICEF on 19 April 2021 on Disability considerations for Covid-19 vaccinations.
The response to the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed inequalities, deepening discrimination and marginlisation.
Persons with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, both directly because of infection and indirectly due to restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the virus. Most persons with disabilities experience additional health complications, including co-morbidities. According to the International Disability Alliance, health systems, in particular emergency health responses are far from being inclusive and accessible.
Down syndrome is a genetic condition caused by a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21, this extra chromosome alters the course of development both physically and intellectually and increases the risks to certain medical complications.
Recent research has shown that individuals with Down syndrome, particularly those over the age of 40, and younger individuals with significant co-morbidities are at a higher risk of severe outcomes from Covid-19 and are at 10 times greater risks of dying from Covid-19 compared to the general population. Statement by The Trisomy 21 Research Society
Their risks may be further increased due to barriers in implementing and following basic hygiene protocols, difficulty in enacting social distancing, as they are dependent on others to take care of their personal needs, most live in crowded dwellings with large extended family members, in group homes or other assisted living facilities which puts them at risks to contracting the virus. Barriers such as communication challenges in understanding preventative measures and communicating the severity of the symptoms of their illness.
In the context of limited supply of vaccines, the race is on in the fight against the devasting Delta variant which has seen an upsurge in positive cases. Government’s sudden turn around to remove all those with co-morbidities from the second phase, further demonstrates its failure to properly consult with persons with disabilities and their representative organistions in inclusive response measures.
The WHO has issued statements calling on governments to give considerations to disability according to guidelines of the WHO in terms of prioritization. Healtcare can neither be universal nor equaitable if it is less accessible to some sections of society than it is to others.
This virus does not discriminate nor should our government
For more information contact: Ancella Ramjas on 082 478 9741/ 072 652 2377 or email : email@example.com