Parents of people living with intellectual and developmental challenges are demanding their loved ones be made a higher priority for COVID-19 vaccinations.
“We know that people with intellectual disability are at higher risk for getting COVID,” Alexandre Grant told Global News.
“They’re also at higher risk for severe outcomes.”
Alexandre said he’s speaking up for his twin brother, Jonathan.
“I think his intellectual disability makes it really difficult for him to be able to understand what it means to be in a pandemic,” he explained.
Their father, Philippe Grant, believes that early vaccination for Jonathan would be a stepping stone to the resumption of a normal life for the family.
“Because of the pandemic, Johnathan’s regular in-person activities were cancelled,” he pointed out.
“He used to go away occasionally for long weekends for camp. There have been none of those.”
He added that as a result there has been no respite for the family of five.
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“With the vaccine he could resume his activities in person,” he insisted.
Sam Kuhn says his family’s situation is similar because his son, 10-year-old Charlie Kuhn, is on the autism spectrum. According to the father, whenever COVID-19 forces his special needs school to revert to remote learning, Charlie loses out.
“It’s more difficult because he’s not interacting directly with the teachers,” he noted.
His position is that if kids like Charlie were immunized, they’d spend less time at home.
Experts agree that there are people living with intellectual and developmental challenges who should get vaccinated early.
“There’s the risk of contracting COVID and then there’s the risk of what happens if they get COVID,” said Yona Lunsky, senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
She stressed that “their disability along with associated medical condition may make them more vulnerable, and because of their disability, it might be hard for them to communicate their symptoms and caregivers might not recognize they’ve contracted the virus.”
“Getting the medical help they need may also be a challenge,” Lunsky added. “If that person has a harder time expressing their symptoms then that’s gonna mean they’ll get help later.”
The health ministry said in a statement, however, that they currently have no information that people living with intellectual disabilities are at greater risk.
“There has been no change in the prioritization, but the (Ministry of Health and Social Services) and its partners are working to define the list of chronic diseases and health problems that increase the risk of complications,” the statement reads.
Families say they’ll keep putting pressure on the government.