Chatham-Kent health leader wants higher vaccine priority for people with complex medical needs

·2 min read

A local healthcare leader is asking the province to bump up the vaccine priority ranking for people with complex medical needs and place them in phase 1 of the rollout.

In a letter to the provincial government, executive director of Community Living Chatham-Kent Ron Coristine asks that officials include people with complicated medical backgrounds, specifically those with Down Syndrome, in the phase 1: high risk population vaccination group.

At this time, Ontario has people in community living, who may have a range of mental or developmental disabilities, listed under phase 2 of the rollout. This phase is expected to begin in March.

But Coristine says they shouldn't have to wait. And he's not the only one making this call.

Wayne Leslie, CEO of a Down Syndrome advocacy group in British Columbia, is also demanding that the people it represents get added to the province's priority queue.

Down syndrome is a genetic condition that can result in physical, mental, and developmental disabilities and, as a result, people with the condition can have complex health and mental health needs.

People over the age of 40 with Down syndrome can develop high-risk medical conditions that are comparable to someone over the age of 70 in the general population, according to Leslie.

As a result, someone with Down Syndrome is 10 times more likely to die from COVID-19 and five times more likely to be hospitalized, Coristine said.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

"It just, to me, makes sense that for someone who has Down Syndrome that you would get that vaccine out as soon as possible because obviously the potential there to become ill could put great strain on the hospital system and it's something that could be avoided if people with high medical needs were in the first wave of the vaccine," he said.

Of the 550 people his organization services, Coristine says this needs-based approach would mean that at least 50 of his clients would enter the top tier priority group for vaccination.

And while he said he understands the need to vaccinate seniors' facilities, he wants to see other highly vulnerable people across Ontario included in the current roll-out.