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Parkinson’s disease patients should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccines: experts

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People with Parkinson’s disease (PD) should be given priority to get the coronavirus vaccines because they are at a high risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19, some experts say.

In an article published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease on Wednesday, scientists and medical professionals said that the approved mRNA-based vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are not known to interact with the brain degeneration caused by PD.

Read more: ‘World first’ Parkinson’s treatment undergoing clinical trial in Toronto

There is also no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines could interfere with the current therapies of Parkinson’s, the authors noted.

“This is really a high-risk group that deserves to be vaccinated quickly,” Bastiaan R. Bloem, lead author and director of the Radboudumc Center of Expertise for Parkinson & Movement Disorders in the Netherlands, told Global News.

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Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that causes nerve cells in a person’s brain to weaken or die. The disease mostly affects people aged 60 and older, but some also develop early onset disease before the age of 50 or even 40.

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Decreased physical activity due to lockdown restrictions, coupled by the acute and chronic stress from the pandemic puts PD patients at risk of further worsening of their symptoms, Bloem said.

Read more: When Life Gives You Parkinson’s podcast: Parkinson’s, parenting and the coronavirus pandemic

Citing data from the Phase 3 clinical trials, the paper’s authors noted that the types or incidence of side effects of COVID-19 vaccines in persons with Parkinson’s disease were no different than those of people without the disease.

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Bloem said policy makers should prioritize vaccines for people with Parkinson’s, physicians should not hesitate to give the vaccine to them and patients themselves should not be concerned about receiving the doses.

However, he did urge caution for very frail elderly patients who are at an advanced stage of Parkinson’s disease.

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So far, Canada has approved two COVID-19 vaccines: from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

As of yet, there is no clear guidance from the manufacturers for or against giving vaccines to people with Parkinson’s, which is why Bloem said it was important to alleviate some of the concerns.

Read more: Novavax submits coronavirus vaccine to Health Canada for approval

In the initial stages of its rollout that began in December and is expected to stretch into March, Canada is prioritizing the vaccines for front-line health workers, long-term care residents and workers, the elderly, and Indigenous communities.

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In the second stage, as additional vaccines and supplies become available, shots will be offered to residents and staff of all shared living settings, as well as essential service workers at high risk of infection.

More than 100,000 people in Canada have been diagnosed with PD, according to Parkinson Canada, and there is no cure.

Researchers in Toronto are in the early stages of developing what’s being called a “world-first” treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

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