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Health & Medicine

New York Advocates for Alzheimer's Sufferers Want them at Top of COVID Vaccination & Testing List

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There are urgent calls to vaccinate people with Alzheimer’s disease against  the coronavirus, due to symtoms of the condition that can put people at risk unknowingly.  This past week people with a range of chronic illnesses, including Alzheimer’s joined the list approved to get the vaccine in New York.

Dr. Allison B. Reiss is an Associate Professor of Medicine at N-Y-U Long Island School of Medicine and a member of the Medical Advisory Board of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.  She says prioritizing Alzheimer’s patients to get the coronavirus vaccinations makes sense.

“Most people with Alzheimer’s are older people, so just from that alone they’re in a high risk category.  The also often have many comorbidities that increase their risk, certainly diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure.  Some have obesity (and) histories of cancer.”

Reiss adds Alzheimer’s patients also often suffer from asthma, and heart and lung disease.  Starting Monday people with certain co-morbidities and underlying health conditions became eligible to get vaccinated for COVID, under guidelines from the Cuomo administration.  Also on the list are cancer patients, including 9/11 related cancers, chronic kidney disease, intellectual and developmental disabilities, severe obesity and pregnancy. 

Reiss also advises increased testing is also critical.  Particularly in Alzheimer’s patients, it can be hard to know if they’re experiencing any of the symptoms that would tip-off caregivers they might have COVID 19

“You may not be aware that the beloved person in your home is having troubles with breathing because they can’t tell you. So, one of the key things is, of course, we want to get people vaccinated before that get COVID and spread COVD, and certainly if someone has COVID we want to know it so we can isolate them.  We don’t want days and days to go by and we don’t realize it.”

She says the virus begins to show-up in other ways in Alzheimer’s patients such as urinary and viral infections and G-I tract issues that can be deceptive.  Home testing would help, so they don’t come into contact with others to potentially catch or spread the virus. 

“People with Alzheimer’s, it’s very hard to get them tested, to get them to wear the mask all the time, and I think we need a concerted effort to be testing in the home.  I don’t know why home tests are so difficult to get, but they are.”

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM ALZHEIMER'S FOUNDATION OF AMERICA

“COVID-19 has been one of the most significant public health crises in recent memory. It has been extraordinarily hard for families affected by Alzheimer’s disease—preventing visitations in long-term care settings, cutting off access to vital in-person therapeutic and respite care programs and adding enormous stress to family caregivers. The development of the COVID-19 vaccination brings us closer to the end of this terrible, global pandemic, but only if people receive it. We urge all families affected by Alzheimer’s disease to get vaccinated as soon as they are able to do so. “Alzheimer’s disease primarily impacts older adults, who are at higher risk of developing serious, and possibly fatal, complications from COVID-19, especially if they also have an underlying health condition. Eighty percent of COVID-19-related deaths in the United States have been among adults aged 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (representing approximately 16 percent of the total population). “Getting a loved one vaccinated helps protect them from the COVID-19 virus as well as becoming seriously ill if they do contract it. Caregivers themselves should get the vaccination as further protection because contracting the virus will impact their health and ability to provide care. Mental and physical stress, which have been significantly increased during the pandemic, can also impact the body’s immune system. “FDA-approved vaccines currently used in the United States do not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19—you cannot get sick with COVID-19 simply through vaccination itself. While there may be minor side effects as with any vaccination, such as fever, fatigue or pain/swelling at the injection site, they are normal signs that your body is building protection and pale in comparison to the dangers of contracting COVID-19. Currently-approved FDA vaccines require two shots in order to be the most effective. “We all long for the day when this pandemic is behind us. Every vaccination brings that day a little bit closer. We highly encourage families affected by Alzheimer’s disease to get the COVID-19 vaccination as soon as they are able to and continue practicing adequate social distancing, proper masking, and all other recommended safety protocols--for their own health, their loved ones’ health, and for all of us.”

Governor Cuomo says in a release that about 94-percent of all COVID deaths represent people with comorbidities.  He hopes hospitals and local governments with extra vaccine doses will now be able to address that population.