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DSSA calls to prioritise vaccination for people with Down syndrome

Doctor in gloves holding syringe and making injection to woman

Down Syndrome South Africa (DSSA) urges the national Department of Health to rapidly prioritise vaccines for people with Down syndrome aged 18 and above.

The vaccination includes all those in residential facilities and not just by age cohorts, primary caregivers and support staff.

94% of families indicated they wanted their children to be vaccinated, according to the survey conducted by DSSA.

DSSA, a non-profit organisation in South Africa, was established in 1986 as a parent advocacy organization to promote and protect the Constitutional rights of all persons with Down syndrome and their families.

DSSA has 12 regional associations and supports groups throughout the country. On January 30, 2020, WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic, of importance was the policy brief issued by the WHO and UNICEF on April 19 on disability considerations for Covid-19 vaccinations.

The response to the pandemic has exposed inequalities, deepening discrimination and marginalisation of persons with disabilities.

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 ten times more likely to die Covid-19 compared to the general population.

Their risks may be further increased due to barriers in implementing and following basic hygiene protocols and difficulty maintaining social distancing, as they are dependent on others to take care of their personal needs in group homes or other assisted living facilities that put them at home risk of contracting the virus.

The government’s sudden turnaround 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 organisations in inclusive response measures.

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